How Did the Tradition of Birthday Celebrations and Birthday Cakes Begin?

Have you ever questioned where and when the celebration of birthdays started? As we know it, it is a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate the anniversary of your birth and another year of your life, aka getting older.

Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake

The celebration of birthdays has evolved, transforming into what we perceive it to be today. This widely practiced tradition began somewhere, and that is what we are looking to reveal here today. There are hypotheses of some historians about the origins of birthdays. We hope that this one significant part of our culture will be a little bit more understandable.

Birthdays did not begin until the creation of calendars

Other than the moon, sun, and other significant events, early civilizations had no way of keeping track of time. That made it difficult for them to remember important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

With time, everyone realized that they were all experiencing the consequences of age. They did not have the means to commemorate it.

It was not until ancient humans started paying attention to the moon cycles. They begin to notice the seasons changing as well. They also noted that this trend recurred and started keeping track of the passage of time. Now we can celebrate birthdays and other significant events and anniversaries each year thanks to this type of tracking system.

The Egyptians were the ones who started it all

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl

According to Bible scholars, the first mention of a birthday occurred approximately 3,000 B.C.E. and was about the birthday of Pharaoh. However, recent research suggests that this was their birth as a god rather than their birth into the world.

Ancient Egypt crowned Egyptian pharaohs to change into gods. That was a turning point in their lives that was more significant than their actual birth. Pagans, such as the ancient Greeks, believed that everyone had a spirit with them on their birthday.

The Greeks attributed to all those birthday candles

Gods and goddesses abound throughout Greek mythology. The Greeks paid countless tributes and sacrifices to these gods to appease them. Artemis, the goddess of the moon, was no exception.

The Greeks would make moon-shaped cakes with lit candles as a tribute to the goddess, recreating the brilliant splendor of the moon and the perceived beauty of Artemis. The candles also signify the sending of a signal or a prayer. Blowing out the candles with a request is another way to convey a message to the gods.

Birthdays began as a means of protection

Birthday Party
Birthday Party

The Egyptian ritual of celebrating the birth of a god is said to have been imitated by the Greeks. They believed that days of significant change, such as these birthdays, were favorable to the entry of evil spirits. They burned candles in response to these spirits, almost as though they represented a light in the darkness. That suggests that birthday celebrations began as a kind of defense.

Friends and family would gather around the birthday person to protect them from harm, not just with candles but also with good cheers, thoughts, and wishes. To spread even more joy and ward off evil spirits, they would give gifts. They also often utilized noisemakers to ward off malicious spirits.

The ancient Romans were the first to celebrate the birth of the ordinary man

It appears that this is the first time in history that civilization has commemorated the birth of non-religious figures. Ordinary Romans honored their friends’ and family members’ birthdays. On the other side, the government established public holidays in honor of more well-known individuals.

Every Roman who turned 50 years old would receive a unique cake made with wheat flour, olive oil, grated cheese, and honey. However, the men would only be the ones that experienced this birthday celebration. They did not celebrate birthdays for women until the 12th century.

Christian culture once thought birthdays to be a pagan ritual

All persons are born with original sin, according to Christianity. That, combined with the fact that early birthdays were associated with pagan gods, caused Christians to regard birthdays as bad festivities. For the first few hundred years of the existence of the Christian Church, this was the case.

Christians would not abandon this way of thinking until the 4th century when they began celebrating the birth of Jesus, commonly known as Christmas. To recruit individuals who were already celebrating Saturnalia, the Roman holiday, they partly staged the birth celebration of Jesus.

German bakers discovered the birthday cake as we know it today

Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake

People celebrate birthdays throughout the world in this era. That including in China, where the first birthday of a child was more important. Kinderfeste was the name for a German birthday party closest to the style of gatherings today, which began in the late 18th century. They topped the birthday cake with candles and hosted the party for German children or kinder.

On top of the cake, the adults gave each child one candle for each year they had lived, plus one for the hope of living for at least another year. The main component of these rituals was blowing out the candles while making a wish.

The Industrial Revolution invented a way for everyone to enjoy sugary cakes

Sugary cakes were once considered a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. That was because the ingredients needed to make these sugary treats were considered a luxury.

Birthday celebrations were prevalent in all cultures during the period known as the Industrial Revolution. It became easy to obtain the necessary materials. That, together with advancements in mass production, allowed bakers to provide pre-made cakes to clients at lower prices.

The song Happy Birthday was a remix in several ways

In 1893, Patty Hill and Mildred J Hill created a song Good Morning to All. They published it in a book for other teachers. They made the song to be sung in a class by pupils before the school day began.

Naturally, as something becomes popular, some changes are made. This song is no exception. Robert Coleman published a songbook in 1924 that included this song and a few more lines that progressively dominated the original lyrics. These new words to that well-known ancient tune became known as “The Birthday Song” as we know it today.

Irving Berlin musical in 1933 included this revised version. Because they owned the copyright to the tune, one of the founding Hill sisters filed a lawsuit. They won their case, and the copyright is still in effect today. Some even argue that the copyright protects this song until 2030. The copyright profits, estimated to be over $2 million each year, are shared between the copyright owner and Hill’s estate.

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