I thoroughly enjoyed writing my last blog on Birthday Celebrations of the world. If I were still raising my children I would celebrate their birthday with a different world culture theme each year; providing them the fun of celebrating their birthday while learning other cultures and traditions at the same time.
More interesting facts and traditions:
First Birthday Celebration: The first recorded Birthday appears in the Book of Genesis 40:20-23 when the reigning Pharaoh, (believed to be Sesostris II) threw a party on his birthday. Nothing in Scripture suggests birthday celebrations were out of the ordinary; most likely birthday celebrations by Pharaoh’s, Kings and the wealthy took place regularly throughout Bible times.
First Birthday Cards: The origin of the Birthday card is not clearly known. The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to early Egyptians who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls. Birthday cards most likely became more common in the early 1800’s when the Penny Post made sending cards affordable.[i]
First Birthday Cake: In the 15th century, bakeries in Germany conceived the idea of marketing one-layer cakes for customers’ birthdays thus the modern birthday cake was born. During the 17th century, the birthday cake took on more or less its contemporary form. However, these elaborate cakes, which possessed many aspects of contemporary cakes (such as multiple layers, icing, and decorations), were only available to the very wealthy.
Origin of Birthday Candles: The tradition of adding lit candles to the top of a birthday cake is said to have originated in 18th-century Germany where people used to place a large candle in the center of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life. In ancient Greece it is reported people prayed over the lit flame believing the smoke would carry their prayers to God. Folklore says the candles were lit to ward off evil spirits in the coming year. In Western Tradition the candles represent the breath of each year in the Honoree’s life. Often families will add one extra candle for luck in the coming year.
The Birthday Song: The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All“, which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. Patty was a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse. Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song which young children would find easy to sing.[ii]
Birthday Song Traditions: In New Zealand “Happy Birthday to You” is sung and is followed by clapping, once for each year of the person’s life and once more for good luck. In Uruguay, party guests touch the birthday person’s shoulder or head following the singing of “Happy Birthday to You”. In Ecuador, sometimes following the song, the birthday Honoree will take a large bite off the birthday cake before it’s served.
Growing-up my family held to the American Tradition of Birthday Celebrations. The celebration began with a specially made cake, decorated with the words Happy Birthday and the Honoree’s name. Candles, one for each year of age, were placed upon the cake’s top with an extra one for luck. Candles were lit and singing the traditional Birthday Song, “Happy Birthday to You” commenced. Once the song’s completed the Honoree blew out the candles while making a wish. Tradition said if we succeeded in blowing out the candles, in one breath, our wish would be granted; provided we kept the wish a secret. I, now a bit wiser and older, understand this is simply folklore and holds no merit; never-the-less it’s fun to dream. Removing the burnt candles the Birthday Honoree makes the first cut in the cake for serving and the cake is handed off to the host for the 2nd and serving of slices to the guests. The first slice of cake is placed before the Birthday Honoree. Tummies all full – the fun begins; time to receive the presents given by family, friends and invited guests. Oh yes, lest I forget, my family celebrated the time honored tradition of a spanking for each year celebrated on the one’s bum. 🙂
Hope you are enjoying this series on Birthdays – more to come.
Did your family have a special tradition which you are passing on to your children?
Until next time, Sandra