How Come Celebrating Birthdays with a Cake?

A long-standing tradition is celebrating birthdays with a ‘birthday cake.’ The ancient Romans did celebrate high-status men’s birthdays with cakes made from nuts, honey, flour and yeast. They were very much an indulgence but not at all sweet. No ancient Roman women’s birthdays were celebrated with any type of cake.

During the 1700s, in Germany the tradition of celebrating a child’s birthday started, even looking like a town festival. For the German child, a cake was baked beforehand, with sugar that came from the English and Dutch colonies, then presented to the child in the morning when they awoke all lit with candles. The cake candles were kept lit throughout the day. As the candles burned out they were replaced with fresh ones and this was an important part of the superstition.

The number of candles was supposed to represent each year the child had lived so far, often with one more added as a symbol of hope that they would live another year. The extra candle was sometimes also called “the light of life”. Since diseases killed many young children in the 1700s, the hope for another birthday was important. In finally blowing out the candles, only the birthday child did this, another important part of the ritual was to get all the candles put out in one breath, symbolizing the health and vitality of the child.

By the mid-1800s, with the ingredients easier to get, many adults in other countries were also now celebrating a birthday with a cake.

Recall for the family history some of the outstanding birthday celebrations and the cakes plus those that were a total surprise.

Photo: 1950s Birthday Cake and celebration.

Related Blogs:

Marking Historical Events on Birthdays and Anniversaries

Your Ancestors Celebrating Birthdays

Family Gifts

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