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The History of Birthdays
by Brenda Arnold
The germans are thought to have started children's birthday partiesSome believe that Birthday celebrations began as a form of protection. It was a common belief that evil spirits were more dangerous to a person when he or she experienced a change in their daily life, such as turning a year older. To protect them from harm, friends and family would gather around the birthday person and bring good cheers, thoughts and wishes. Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits. Noisemakers are thought to be used at parties as a way of scaring away the evil spirits. The birthday history custom of lighting candles originated with people believing that the gods lived in the sky and by lighting candles and torches they were sending a signal or prayer to the gods so they could be answered. When you blow out the candles and make a wish this is another way of sending a signal and a message.

The Germans are given credit in birthday history for starting celebrations of children's birthdays. These celebrations were called "kinderfeste". The word "kinderfeste" is derived from two German words 'kinder' meaning children and 'feste' meaning festival or party.

Even though historians are certain that people have observed their birthdays for quite some time, there are very few records of such celebrations that still exist. The only ones documented in birthday history are those birthdays of kings, high-ranking nobility, and other important figures. Common people and especially children never celebrated their birth when the idea came about. This trend has been explained by a theory that nobility were the only people wealthy enough to throw such celebrations, and quite possibly were the only ones thought to be important enough to have been written about or remembered. Some historians believe these early birthday bashes resulted in the custom of wearing birthday "crowns" as time went on.

Birthday Symbols: Many of the symbols that we associate with birthdays had their roots hundreds of years ago. There are a few explanations as to why we have birthday cakes. Some say it is because the Greeks used to take cakes to the temple of the goddess of the moon, Artemis. They took her round cakes to represent the full moon. Another view is that the tradition of the birthday cake started in Germany. A bread was made in the shape of the baby Jesus' swaddling clothes. Geburtstagorten is another type of German cake that was said to have been used for birthdays. It was a layered cake that was much sweeter than the bread type cake.

Another symbol that is closely tied to the birthday cake is the custom of putting candles on the cake. The Greek people who took their cakes to Artemis placed candles on the cake because it made the cake look as if it was glowing like the moon. The Germans were known as good candle makers and started to make small candles for their cakes. Some people say that the candles were put on for religious reasons. Some Germans place a big candle in the center of the cake to symbolize the "light of life" . Others believed that the smoke from fires would take their wishes up to heaven. Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out their candles. They believe that blowing out all the candles in one breath will bring good luck.

Many birthday traditions deal with luck. A good luck birthstone, good luck flower, and a good luck color have been assigned to each month of the year. Birthday presents dealing with these good luck symbols are often given as gifts.

Birthday Customs: The song "Happy Birthday to You" was composed by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in 1893, but nobody really paid much attention to it until the original words "Good Morning to You" were changed to "Happy Birthday to You", words that are sung in virtually every home across the world at least once during the year.

A gathering or party is usually held so that the birthday person can have their cake and blow out the candles. Parties were gatherings where friends and family members would give gifts or flowers to the person having the birthday. Today lots of birthday parties are for fun. If people cannot visit someone on their birthday they often send them a birthday card. The tradition of sending birthday cards was started in England about 100 years ago.

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