Posts Tagged ‘birthday parties’

Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays?

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Sounds like a silly question doesn’t it?

After all, why wouldn’t we want to mark the very important day that we were born?

Not to mention that it’s basically a free 24 hour pass to do what you like; have a party, catch up with friends and family, open some presents and eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But this isn’t quite about why, but how we came to celebrate birthdays in the way we do.

So hold onto your party hats, because we’re going to have to go quite a way back to work this one out…

Lighting the candles on a Happy Birthday cake

Let’s Get This Birthday Party Started

Ancient Egyptians can be traced as one of the earliest civilizations to at least take notice of a birthday as recorded in the Bible. It was, however, a Pharaoh’s birthday and Egyptologists have suggested that this mention referred to a coronation anniversary rather than an actual birth-date. Once crowned, Egyptian royals were considered to have transcended mortality and entered the realm of the Gods.

Birthday Cake? Sounds a Bit Greek

As a tribute to the Lunar Goddess, Artemis, the Greeks made cakes in the shape of the moon. They used candles on the cakes to recreate the glowing effect of the moon – a symbol of the Goddess’ luminescent beauty.

What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Well, they certainly seem to have been the first civilization to celebrate birthday on behalf of the common man. And when we say ‘man’, we mean it. Women at that time were not considered worthy of such a fuss. It took until around the 12th century for females to be able to celebrate on their birthday.

Romans lucky enough to reach their 50th would be rewarded with a cake made of wheat flour, olive oil, honey and cheese. And although they weren’t quite sending e cards yet, Romans did enjoy a good old fashioned shindig.

Christmas Birthdays – So Annoying

Original sin along with the associations to the worship of pagan deities prevented the Christian religion from adopting the idea of birthdays for quite some time. It wasn’t until the 4th Century and the introduction of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ that they were no longer considered unholy and hedonistic.

Yet Christmas celebrations as we know them now didn’t really take off until the Victorian era. The first Christmas card was only introduced in 1843. Christmas e-cards on the other hand, are unsurprisingly a much more recent invention with the first ‘electronic postcard’ being sent in 1994.

Ein Kinderfeste Ist Gut, Ja?

It was in 18th Century Europe where the Germans seem to be the likeliest of instigators of the contemporary children’s birthday party. Kinderfeste involved a birthday cake with candles for each year – along with an extra one for the hope of another full year lived. Pretty morbid, we grant you. But infant mortality rates were high back then. It’s also thought that the tradition of making a wish when you blow out your candles was born out of the same superstition.

Happy Birthday was a Cover

Here’s a bit of a birthday bombshell for you. You know that song that everybody sings on your birthday, that you can’t show on TV without paying loads of royalties? It’s not even an original. Back in 1893, Patty and Mildred J. Hill wrote and composed a simple song called ‘Good Morning To All’ intended to be used in schools. It became prevalent all across America, sparking off variations left, right and centre, until Robert Coleman added some of his own lyrics then published it in his songbook in 1924. The rest, as they say, is history.

You could say it’s been a bit of a slow burn getting there, but just look at us now… We’ve got cake, we’ve got candles, a personalised song, party, presents and of course the humble birthday card.

As birthday traditions continue you to develop we also have the internet, that most marvelous of modern inventions, to thank for the introduction of Birthday ecards.

 

And that’s why it’s fascinating to think where birthday celebrations came from and where they might go in the future.

Birthday Ecard Happy Birthday Billboard Animation

The Animated Billboard Birthday Ecard from Katie’s Cards