Birthday rituals: The story behind cutting cake and blowing candles

Cakes have become synonymous to birthdays and the tradition has followed to professional quarters as well. 


One tradition that has been followed for centuries without change and criticism and on the contrary has been made more pompous with people making a business out of it is cake cutting during birthdays. Accept it or not, no matter how much cake you eat all through the year, that one day of indulgence is what we all look forward to. Cakes have been synonymous to birthdays and the tradition has followed to professional quarters as well. What comes along with this long-standing tradition is blowing off candles making wishes. Although a completely western custom, it has its roots in ancient Greek mythology. 


Here’s the story behind the ageless ritual of cake cutting and blowing candles on a birthday


Multiple theories try to explain the significance of cutting cake on a birthday. According to Greek tradition, the ancient Greeks used to bake round honey cakes and decorate with candles as an offering to the moon goddess Artemis. The candles would symbolize the moonlight and on blowing them off, the smoke would carry your prayers and wishes to heaven. 


Another theory suggests cakes were introduced by Roman culture. They served the dessert made from flour and nuts as a gesture of goodwill and mostly cut during weddings. Soon Germans took the tradition and improvised it by introducing layered cakes especially for birthdays. Hence birthday cake was born which soon became popular in Europe but was affordable only to the wealthier section. It was only after the Industrial Revolution that the ingredients for cake making became cheaper and cakes became a part of birthday celebrations for everyone. 


The history of candles on the cake again dates back to the 18th Century German tradition. It was believed that candles will reunite deceased family members as spirits who will bless the birthday guy in the dark and then the noise was made to ward off the spirits. In those days birthday gifts were not so common but considered a good omen. Soon bringing flowers to birthday party became popular. Putting the same number of candles as the age turned to is a tradition borrowed from the Swiss. It is even believed that only if you can blow all the candles in one breath your wishes will come true!


There is no standard theory for the common birthday ritual of cutting the cake and blowing a candle. There are certainly many variations of the birthday song and associated rituals in different communities. 

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