Every year, the United States designates the third Monday in February as a national holiday to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But aside from doing a litte sale shopping, most Americans don't celebrate the holiday in any significant way. In fact, many don't even know whom the holiday commemorates, and sitting U.S. presidents certainly don't honor themselves. (Obama did spoil himself a bit this year by playing a round of golf with Tiger Woods.) But that's not the case everywhere in the world. Here's a look at six countries where current leaders celebrate their birthdays publicly -- and very often in extravagant style.
In 2008, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree to make his birthday a national holiday. Though July 6 is officially called "Astana Day" to mark the day Astana became the nation's capital in 1997, many in the country see the holiday as an excuse to celebrate the birthday of the Kazakh president, who has led the central Asian state since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Some observe the holiday with enthusiasm, but others are less than comfortable with the cult of personality that appears to underlie the lavish celebrations -- especially in a country where a university as well as many parks and squares bear the name of the longtime president.
"This is a huge waste of money and pompous precisely because Astana Day and Nazarbayev's birthday are the same day," one Astana resident declared in 2010. "They are constantly driving into my children at school that Nazarbayev is our everything."
In 2010, the three-day birthday festival kicked off with the opening of a giant indoor park (giant as in containing a multistation monorail and an amusement park featuring "human pinball" and a log flume ride, among other attractions). The Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sang (in 2008, it was only Whitney Houston), and seven presidents plus the king of Jordan were in attendance. In total, the celebratory circuses, ballets, and fireworks cost Kazakhstan more than $10 million. (That same year, the country observed an elaborate First President's Day to mark the anniversary of Nazarbayev's first election in 1991. "Kazakhstan Celebrates First, And Only, President," NPR cheekily observed.)
Last year, the Astana Day celebration included an international film festival, a Cirque du Soleil performance, several concerts, and an ice show. But if you think that this sounds just a little bit Nero-esque, think again, at least according to government leaders. "There is nothing surprising here," one official argued in 2010. "All nations pay tribute to their presidents."
Nazarbayev, who has repeatedly won (widely criticized) elections with more than 90 percent of the vote and changed the law to personally exempt himself from term limits, could be celebrating his birthday in style for many years to come -- especially if his quest for the elixir of youth works out.
In the photo above, artists perform in honor of Kazakhstan's First President's Day in Astana on Dec. 1, 2012.