Birthday History

I always questioned on where our birthday history came from as a species? We celebrate holidays, birthdays, political activities and life-changing events on such a constant basis; we end up apathetic toward their origins. To me, the most questionable element of our current society regards birthday history. Where did it come from? What was its original purpose? Hopefully, this article will enlighten you with these questions.

Ancient man was oblivious toward the concept of time. Days, weeks, months and years came and went without bearing any sort of significance toward early human-beings. There was no way of knowing what the passage of time actually meant because in their mind, it didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans mastered the lunar cycle for agricultural reasons. This is where our birthday history truly commenced.

When the names of days were invented (being named after their gods) it was much more possible to record daily events. Hence, when someone was born, the day and year could be remembered more effectively. Through the use of astrology, the remembering of birthdays became essential because there was belief that a certain zodiac sign was destined to overthrow the royal bloodline. In addition to this, there was also the belief that evil spirits will visit the birthday boy/girl and protection was done by having people surround the birthday person through the day. However, no culture holds our modern-day birthday customs than the Greeks did.

Even though there were no birthday presents to speak of, the concept of a birthday cake and candles originated from the Greeks. The Greeks used cake as a form of celebration on a regular basis in their culture. For once a month, they celebrated the birthday of Artemis, who was the goddess of the moon. They took small round cakes and place a candle on them. The round shape of the cake and the light emitting from the candle was supposed to symbolize the shape and color of the moon. Therefore, they practiced the same custom whenever someone’s birthday came. However, instead of having the candles reflect the number of years the person has, they were a tribute and brought good fortune. Thusly, the surrounding of the birthday child and singing a certain kind of “birthday song” was also practiced from the Greeks. There were; the blowing out of the candles, playing birthday games and singing. There were no birthday gifts handed out and that didn’t matter to the birthday child. The real point of having a fleshed out birthday party was because all the aforementioned activities kept all the evil spirits away. It’s apparent that when it concerns our birthday history, it all seems to boil down to some kind of spiritual activity.

So, it’s apparent that our conventional birthday parties are a combination of customs from cultures throughout Europe. To me, it’s amazing that all these customs remain the same after all these centuries. Even though there are still some cultures that believe in warding off evil spirits with mirror, relics and prayers to this day, the celebration of a person’s life remains intact. That’s something that should never be forgotten. Now knowing our birthday history, for what it’s worth, will certainly make you look at birthday parties in a different way from now on.

More Drees History Articles