Birthday celebrations are those once-a-year milestones through each of our lives. While we only get to celebrate our own once a year, we still have the opportunity to celebrate those of friends and family throughout. And is it just me, or do they all seem to come along at the same time? (the answer is below!)
I thought I’d take a look into the history of birthdays, and was surprised at what I learned! Have a read of some of these surprising facts
A brief history of birthdays
- The earliest known mention of a birthday was over 5,000 years ago – the birth of a Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Some Egyptologists suggest that this relates to the coronation of the pharaoh rather than the birth. The idea being that the coronation was the birth of a living god, and therefore much more significant than the birth of a baby
- The ancient Greeks offered moon-shaped cakes to the goddess Artemis (goddess of the moon). To imitate the radiance of the moon, they would add candles to the cake, and it is likely that this is the origin of our own birthday candles
- Ancient Romans were the first to celebrate birthdays for friends and family, but this only applied to the men. While the Roman Empire began around 27BC, it wasn’t until the 12th century that women finally got their own birthday celebrations.
- The early Christian church considered birthdays to be evil, due to their earlier associations with pagan gods and Egyptian rituals. This idea changed around the 4th century with the adoption of Christmas Day as Jesus’ birthday
- The modern rituals of birthday cakes and candles seems to have originated in Germany in the late 18th century. The birthday cake would be decorated with a candle for each year of life, plus one extra in the hope of living another year. The recipient of the cake would blow out the candles and make a wish
- The lyrics of the traditional birthday song “Happy Birthday to You” were only written in 1924, and took its tune from “Good Morning to All” written in 1893 by Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill
Do birthdays tend to come along at the same time?
So – looking back at our earlier question – do birthdays tend to happen more often at certain times of the year? A research study found that birthdays were fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, with a slight increase around mid-September – this is associated with darkest part of the year occurring nine months earlier, if you get what I mean!
That being said, there is such a thing as “birthday clumping” noted in statistical theory (Poisson distributions) which shows that random events do have a tendency to clump together. I can’t and won’t pretend to understand the details, but in short – yes, birthdays do tend to come along at the same time – but when that time is differs for each of us!
When do the “big” birthday celebrations take place?
Each decade has its own importance, from the 30th birthday on upwards. Before the 30th, things are a bit more complicated! Some people celebrate their 18th, others celebrate their 21st, and some celebrate both!