Why do we celebrate birthdays?

It’s my birthday. Thanks for the well-wishes, but if you really want to do something for me, here are some charities you could support:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Fight for the Forgotten
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Pencils of Promise
Charity: Water

I’m 43 years old today. According to Patton Oswalt, I’m allowed to celebrate again in seven years.

But why do we celebrate birthdays, anyway? And why cake? And candles?

Fun fact: Oct. 5 is considered to be the most common birthday in the United States, with the least common being May 22. Everybody do the math? That makes New Year’s Eve the most common conception night, and sometime in mid-August the least. If you’re counting back from November 20, I guess Dad had a good Valentine’s Day.

We started celebrating our birthdays because of gods. It goes something like this: When ancient Egyptians crowned a pharaoh, the pharaoh was believed to transform into a god. Egyptians would celebrate the anniversary of the pharaoh’s becoming a god.

The first birthdays.

Later, the Greeks held annual celebrations of their gods, and, during the celebration of Artemis, the moon goddess, they would make moon-shaped cookies and added candles to mimic the light of the moon.

Next, the Romans began celebrating the anniversaries of the birth of their male friends and relatives.

Later, the Germans added cakes to celebrations, and finally, in the 1930s, we get the song “Happy Birthday.”

I’m not sure when we started celebrating the birthdays of women and children, but hey, it’s nice to have everybody on board, especially when there’s cake involved.

Early Christians declined to celebrate birthdays, declaring it a pagan ritual. That sounds a little odd to me, given Christmas trees, the Easter Bunny and the celebrations of All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead.

Modern Christianity has evolved on this (obviously). Some consider birth as a beginning, and a reason to be grateful.


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