History of the Birthday Celebration

Birthday traditions around the world

Despite some people wanting to forget birthdays, for the most part a birthday is a special occasion to honor the birthday person.

Most people celebrate the passing of a year with a birthday celebration of some sort, every year. How did this idea of celebrating a birthday come to be?

It all started when there really was no way to keep track and mark time except for celestial bodies like the moon or sun. People knew that somehow aging occurred, but they didn’t mark it with any special milestone. When ancient cultures started paying attention to the repeated changing of the seasons, they began to mark and note time changes. That is the beginning of celebrating birthdays.

Eventually, the first calendar was created to mark time and special days. From the calendar, people could begin to see birthdays and other special dates of the year. Research shows us that these celebrations began as a way of protection.

A common belief that evil spirits were more prevalent when a person experienced changes in their daily life patterns (such as turning a year older) encouraged the noting of these dates in written form. To protect this person, relatives and friends would gather to bring good thoughts and good cheer.

Gift giving helped to ward off the evil spirits. Noisemakers, often used for celebration, played their role in scaring off the spirits, too. Even the lighting of birthday candles had a significant role in early history. People believed that lighting of birthday candles that a signal or prayer was sent to the gods who lived in the sky. This signal then helped the gods recognize that person and to answer his/her particular prayers. Blowing out the candles added to this idea of sending a signal and a message to the gods so the person’s wishes could be honored.

Records of early birthday celebrations exist for kings, high-ranking nobility, and other important people of that time period. These people seemed to have the means to throw such a celebration and were seen as important enough to be remembered in written history. Some historians note that the first people honored in a birthday celebration wore birthday crowns. Usually the common folk could not afford to celebrate a birthday in grand fashion so this is little note of that in history. These commoners may have thought they were not so important to be noted or remembered.

Another interesting historical fact about birthdays includes the country that started birthday celebrations. Germany has been credited with originating birthday celebrations. Started in honor of children and known as “kinderfeste”, this party was a fun time for all families of children.

Yet, another fact concerns the birthday song. The traditional birthday song Happy Birthday to You was composed by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893. When the original words of Good Morning to You were substituted to include the words Happy Birthday to You the song burst into popularity in many homes across the word.

Because of early traditions of marking the birthday in some written way or even in a more conscious memory and by adding a gathering of friends and family to give happy birthday wishes, birthday celebrations the world over are enjoyed each year.

Today, the birthday and a party (candles, cakes and song) are anxiously awaited by every person. It is a special day for everyone once a year!

Africa birthday traditions

Asia birthday traditions

Australia birthday traditions

Europe birthday traditions

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