This question crops up now and then at birthday parties. I suspect even you are not sure of the answer.
Well, today, I’ll get you out of your state of confusion. I will give you the definitive answer to this enigma. That way, you will be able to talk intelligently at your next party.
In one birthday party I was performing at, the party host kept referring to the birthday boy as “the birthday celebrator.” One or two members of the audience were smirking at the term.
The reason? To most Filipinos, celebrator is a pretentious word. It has a ring of artificiality in it.
Which shouldn’t be the case, because celebrator is a correct term. The only reason that prompted the smirk, I think, is that celebrator is not often used in the Philippines in ordinary occasions. The usual word is celebrant.
So now, if you are a magician in the Philippines, who is not a native English speaker, you may want to know which is the correct term to use? Birthday “celebrator” or birthday “celebrant“?
The answer favors neither. According to Dictionary.com, both terms are correct. They are in fact synonyms. They both mean “a participant in any celebration.” One can be used for the other, and either would mean the same thing.
However, celebrant also connotes “the officiating priest in the celebration of the Eucharist.” Methinks this connotation is what prompted well-meaning English professors and word mavens in the Philippines to preach that the correct term is celebrator.
Well, it may be the more correct term as far as nuance is concerned, but its sound grates the ears of ordinary citizens in the Philippines who are not used to hearing it, let alone using it.
That being the case, my advice for you is to avoid both words. If you ask native English speakers, celebrant and celebrator are formal words. Their use can be awkward in non-formal occasions like in a birthday party.
So that you won’t split hair and get a headache deciding which usage is more appropriate, follow my example. Use “birthday boy” or “birthday girl” instead of “celebrant” or “celebrator“. Say, “Let’s all clap our hands for the birthday boy,” instead of saying “Let’s all clap our hands for the birthday celebrator.” The first proposition to clap sounds soothing to the ears; the second does not.