It’s a day that’s all about you – it’s your birthday! Celebrating the anniversary of the day you were born is a common thing, but have you ever wondered where the tradition began? Early man didn’t have a concept of time, or know how to calculate events. Marking the passage of time only became customary with the invention of calendars, which came about from the ability to read lunar cycles.
So where did we get some of the many traditions that come with birthdays?
Birthdays are often celebrated across many cultures (often with gifts, parties, etc.), but some say the tradition of birthday parties started in Europe. The superstition stated that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays, so to protect the birthday boy or girl, family and friends would visit. Apparently, bringing good wishes and lots of noise kept the spirits away! This is why many parties are filled with noise makers, music and lots of laughter. So break out the party favors and crank up the tunes!
A birthday celebration isn’t complete without a cake and candles! Some think the cake tradition started with the Greeks, who would take a round or moon shaped cake to the temple of Artemis- the Goddess of Moon – to celebrate. They would then light candles on the cake to make it glow like a moon because they believed that gods lived in the sky and that lighted candles helped to send a signal or prayers.
Others think it was a German custom, as they would bake bread into the shape of baby Jesus’ swaddling cloth to mark the occasion. They’d then place a large candle in the middle of the cake, symbolizing ‘the light of life’.
And what about blowing out those flames? Candles are placed on a Birthday cake and a silent wish is made before blowing out the candle. Some say that blowing all candles out in one breath means the wish will come true and the person will have good luck in the coming year. Why? Early traditions believe that the rising smoke takes your wishes and prayers up to God. Regardless of what you believe, don’t let the flames burn too long – it’s bad form to let all of the wax melt all over the cake!
So whether your birthday is today, or a full year away – happy birthday to you and yours! What do YOU do to celebrate your special day?