Most people celebrate their birthday from a very early age. It’s an opportunity to celebrate your achievements so far and spend quality time with your friends and family. In recent decades, the birthday tradition has become progressively more commercialised. We celebrate with parties, presents and the traditional birthday cake.
However, the exact origin of the birthday traditions remains fairly ambiguous. Various historians have formulated and gathered hypotheses on the tradition of birthday celebrations and when they started.
You can thank the Romans, Greek and Persians for your birthday present.
In ancient times, birthdays were a reason to celebrate the survival of your first year. Without doctors and advanced medicine, life expectancies were far shorter and more unpredictable. Teeth and stone were traditional gifts in these times, and a calendar had been created.
The Egyptians were the first Ancient civilisation to celebrate their pharaohs’ birthdays.
The earliest mention of a birthday celebration is around 3,000 BCE, with the Bible’s reference to a Pharaoh’s birthday. In ancient times, when a Pharaoh was crowned, they transformed into a God. Their coronation was way more significant than their birth date. Historians believe that the first mention of a birthday in the Bible actually references a Pharaoh’s coronation, not a birth date.
Romans from aristocrat families throw full-on birthday celebrations 2000 years ago.
The Romans were the first ones to celebrate the everyday man’s birthday instead of a God or Pharaoh. Poor Romans called their birthday celebration a ‘Name Day’ – which is where the Game of Thrones reference comes from.
The Romans would celebrate with their family and friends, and they would receive a special cake of wheat flour, olive oil, honey and grated cheese for their 50th birthday. Nowadays, a chocolate birthday gift is more popular than the standard Roman cake. Unfortunately, women didn’t get to celebrate their birthday until the 12th century.
It all started as a form of protection.
The Greeks adopted the Egyptian birthday tradition. However, they believed that birthdays welcomed evil spirits and began lighting candles to ward off the dark forces. So, birthday candles actually started as a protective measure.
The Greeks also gathered around their family and friends to give them birthday wishes and cheers. They brought gifts and made lots of noise to scare off unwanted spirits. Noisy birthday parties are particularly popular in British culture today – but for a very different reason …
Birthdays were celebrated around the world at this point, and China made the child’s birthday more special than others. We now give presents as a sign of affection or to celebrate someone’s existence. We party, blow up balloons and light candles to celebrate our loved one’s age and life so far. Birthdays are no longer associated with evil spirits, thankfully.