General Question

kelly's avatar

What's the origin of birthday candles?

Asked by kelly (1918points) June 23rd, 2007

Is this an American tradition, or did it come from elsewhere

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4 Answers

elliottcable's avatar

This is a good read on the subject:

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derektherock42's avatar

It's hard to say the origin of candles themselves, but according to Wikipedia, birthday cakes have been a part of Western tradition since the 19th century.

gailcalled's avatar

Our family has stopped using candles....all that spitting on the frosting when one (or many) blow (s) out the candles we find unappetizing.


The origin of popular customs associated with birthday celebrations?
“The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating—complete with lighted candles—in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year. . . . Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom.”—Schwäbische Zeitung (magazine supplement Zeit und Welt), April 3/4, 1981, p. 4.
“The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or daemon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born. The Romans also subscribed to this idea. . . . This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the guardian angel, the fairy godmother and the patron saint. . . . The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks. . . . Honey cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of [Artemis]. . . . Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes. . . . Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are thus an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortune. . . . Birthday greetings and wishes for happiness are an intrinsic part of this holiday. . . . Originally the idea was rooted in magic. . . . Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day.”—The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952), Ralph and Adelin Linton, pp. 8, 18–20.

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