Curious History

Curious History

More to Know About Traditional Birthday Parties

Kids’ Birthday Party Themes

Picture this: it is a Sunday afternoon and you are watching dozens of pizza, fizz-based drinks and cakes being gobbled by children singing out in chorus ‘Happy Birthday to you.’ As their clattering reaches earsplitting levels, you begin to wonder if it was as grand and elaborate as it is now.

The introduction of the calendar made a structured calculation of birth dates for the ruling monarchs and successors, while the birthday omens examined whether the ruling monarch can bring prosperity to the kingdom. According to the author of Birthdays, ‘During the rule of Ptolemy V, the ancient Egyptian King, the concept of horoscopes and celebrating birthdays were considered important omens. The celebration was not restricted to the rich, but many Egyptian households also celebrated by buying garlands and animals for sacrifice.’

Some believed the Greeks baked moon-shaped honey cake to please Artemis, the goddess of the moon. They lit candles so that the smoke from the candles would take an offering to the sky. This tradition continued in Europe, where candles were lit the entire day for celebration and also to ward off evil spirits.

Birthday Cake and Games

Many others think that it originated in Germany as they would bake bread in the shape of baby Jesus in swaddling cloth. The Germans would place a big candle in the middle of the cake, symbolizing ‘the light of life,’ to keep a watchful eye on the young ones and ward off evil spirits. This candle was marked from 1 to 12, and the candle would be burned only up to the mark of that year’s age. They called it Kinderfest. Blowing out candles meant making a silent wish and blowing all candles at once meant that the wish would be granted.

The Victorians in the early 1800s adopted this idea to showcase their wealth and simultaneously brush the etiquettes of their children. These extravagant parties were organized by the mother with the help of a sizeable staff, which included fruit or nut cakes decorated with candles, formal dance, gifts from the parents to the child, and from child to the servants. The invention of cookstoves saw two-layer cakes gaining popularity in the 1840s. A decade later ice cream, goody bags, celebrating parties outside followed. The song ‘Happy Birthday to You’ featured in a musical, started being used in parties in 1934. Molded birthday cakes and icing became popular in the middle of the 19th century.

Parties in the 20th century were theme-based, smaller in size with children of similar age attending the party. Mothers passed on the responsibility of preparing the guest list to their children. The use of appliances in the 1920s removed servants from middle-class homes and since mothers did not want to end up cleaning, they would often pack their children to the movies.

Around 50s, children started considering it as their right to celebrate the birthday with mother’s being a part of this celebration. As women started working, this expectation shifted slowly. By the 90s, birthday parties became a paid entertainment and the trend continues to change till date!

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