Who invented the birthday cake tradition?
Birthday cakes as a custom were thought to originate in Ancient Greece where honey cakes or breads were made for such an occasion. Ancient Romans also celebrated birthdays with special foods, except they celebrated three kinds of birthdays: birthdays of friends and family, birthday of temples or religious figures, and birthdays of people in the imperial family. These treats from birthday cake history were not the layered, buttercreamed and towering confections we know today. They were probably simple cakes made from flour, nuts and honey.
What is Kinderfest?
The modern birthday cake tradition can be traced to Germany, where children had a celebration day called Kinderfest ("kinder" means children, ie "kindergarten", a word English steals from the German. "Kind" is the German word for "child"). Kinderfest has its roots in pagan traditions, which believe evil spirits visit on birthdays. The party for the child was a way for the adults to scare away any evil spirits with merrymaking.
Who wrote the birthday song?
The Happy Birthday is the most recognized song in the English language and has been translated into many other languages. It's sung in Arabic in Egypt, in Dutch in the Netherlands, and has many versions around the world. The origin of the Happy Birthday song dates to 1894 in Kentucky, when two sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill wrote a song called "Good Morning to All" for their kindergartners.
Why do we put birthday candles on birthday cakes, and why do we wish on birthday candles?
One theory is that birthday candles have their origin in an ancient Greek ceremony where candles were lit to celebrate Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. No one is sure when exactly we started using them to represent years. Originally birthday cakes were only for the super rich, but by the late 19th century industrialization and tradition had brought birthday cakes to common people. This is when we see the common birthday traditions spread across North America into everyone home: lighting candles, singing a song and then blowing out the candles before devouring delicious birthday cake at parties.
Why do we blow out birthday candles?
This one is really cool - it comes from ancient times, when people thought smoke would carry thoughts up to the gods in heaven. There are lots of rituals involving burning something - Buddhists light incense, the Israelites sacrificed and burned animals like birds and sheep, and indigenous Australians had tobacco ceremonies to ward off bad spirits.
What are birthday superstitions?
In England, birthday cakes began being made with objects inside of them to represent different things. The person who got the piece with a certain object was supposed to have a future corresponding to that object. If he got a coin, wealth was in his future. If he got a thimble, he would never get married.
One old Southern birthday tradition in the US was that if you managed to blow out all your candles in one blow, you'd be married within the year.
A bizarre Italian superstition involves pulling on the ear lobes, one tug for each year. Since they thought long ear lobes were a sign you'd live a long life, you could have your family members help you out every birthday by giving them a good tug. Ouch!