In Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party (1957), Goldberg (a Jewish character) wishes Stanley a happy birthday and says "well over the fast." What does he mean by it? I know that this expression is usually used by the Jewish people as a kind of holiday greetings! But how come Goldberg uses the expression at a birthday party?!!

GOLDBERG. Lift your glasses. Stanley—happy birthday.

MCCANN. Happy birthday.

LULU. Happy birthday.

MEG. Many happy returns of the day, Stan.

GOLDBERG. And well over the fast.

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    I don't understand the surprise shown here. Wikipedia quotes lines that indicate that a) it might not even be Stan's birthday, despite the title of the play and Meg organising a party, so the whole thing's a farce and b) Goldberg is ostensibly out on a holiday, so it might well be near Yom Kippur. What's so surprising about this? – muru Nov 27 '17 at 23:36

The earliest use in literature that I could find of this now fairly common Jewish saying seems to be from Victor Gollantz's (1953) "My Dear Timothy" and which offers this explanation;

In the crowded lobby people, before they went in, wished one another "well over the Fast", meaning by it "I hope the fasting won't make you ill".

This being the case, it seems more likely than not that Stanley's birthday is near to a fasting day such as the Fast of Gedaliah or Yom Kippur, in which case the greeting is much the same way that you might wish someone whose birthday was on the 31st of December "a happy birthday and a Happy New Year"

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