Happy birthday to…who? How to purge your calendar of acquaintances’ natal days

For historic and syncing reasons, you may wind up with more birthdays listed as events than you want.

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Social media has devalued the birthday by flooding our timelines with the felicitous anniversaries of people far beyond our close friends, family, and colleagues. This is nowhere clearer than in your calendar, which you might find unexpectedly clogged with birthdays every day of people you might not even remember.

How does this happen? It’s a combination of legacy and modern synchronization and import, for most of us. In the past, Apple provided closer integration between Facebook and its operating systems. You may also have imported or synced contacts between Google and your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, or have active sync still in place.

If you’re like me, you may also have the detritus of contacts exported across many pieces of software across many computers and mobiles and jobs and the like. I can hardly believe I ever knew as many people as are in my contacts list.

All of that can lead to many unneeded entries in the Birthday field in your Contacts database. The Calendar app across all of Apple’s platforms has a Birthdays calendar displayed by default that uses the Birthday field as its source.

I know that I have hundreds of birthdays imported from Facebook, and despite wishing all those people well, I have never celebrated the birthday of 99 percent of them—maybe 75 percent I’ve never even met in person!

mac911 edit birthday contact IDG

Use Calendar to find birthdays to delete from Contacts.

The only way to remove birthdays selectively from your Calendar is to remove the Birthday field information or the entire contact card from Contacts.

You can create a smart group in Contacts that shows all entries that contain birthdays. Simply choose File > New Smart Group, and then select the criteria Birthday and the filter “is set.” Name the group something like Birthday Entries and click OK, and you’ve got a convenient list. (Thanks to Macworld reader Howard for this additional tip!)

You can use the Calendar as a tool to find just the birthdays you want to remove:

  1. Open the Calendar app in macOS.

  2. Jump to January 1 (View > Go To Date) and show the weekly view (View > By Week).

  3. For each birthday you want to remove, Control-click it and then click Show in Contacts. The entry opens in the Contacts app.

  4. Click Edit and then click the - (minus) sign next to the Birthday field.

  5. Click Done. The calendar entry disappears almost immediately.

Repeat for every birthday and every week in the year.

If you don’t see a link as in step 3 above, you are likely syncing with Google, and need to log into your Google account to examine birthdays associated with contacts and remove them there.

Just be aware with either using a smart group or manually deleting birthdays, the next time you import contacts or decide to sync with another service that you could be refreshing that birthday list again.

There’s one other option, which is to hide any calendar called Contacts or Birthdays by unchecking it. This keeps all birthdays from appearing that are listed in the Contacts app or actively synced accounts. (This also stops synced accounts, like Google ones, from being used as suggestions for filling in names when adding participants to an event.)

You can then create events that recur annually on your main or a new calendar that contain just the birthdays you want to be reminded of each year.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Peter.

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