Birthday Lore - How Some of Our Traditions Started

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Birthday Lore - How Some of Our Traditions Started
Cakes | Candles | Cards | Luck | Song | Birthday Customs Around the World | Birth Month Flowers


  • Greeks used to take cakes to the temple of the goddess of the moon, Artemis. Round cakes were used to represent the full moon.
  • Germans made Geburtstagorten, a cake used for birthdays.


  • Greeks put candles on the round cakes they brought to Artemis because it represented the glowing moon.
  • Germans were known for candle making, making small candles for their cakes.
  • Some Germans used one large candle in the center of the cake to represent the "light of life."
  • Smoke from fires would carry their wishes to heaven. (wishing as they blow out the candle)
  • Blowing out all candles at once to bring good luck (rather than to grant the wish to come true as many believe today.)


  • The tradition of sending birthday cards started in England about 100 years ago (Motomora, 1989).


  • Good luck birthstone, flower, or colors are often given as gifts to give good luck on a birthday.

"Happy Birthday to you..."

  • The traditional song used to celebrate birthdays was written by two sisters in 1893 (Mildred and Patty Hill). Originally it was written as "Good morning to you..." but then changed to "Happy Birthday to you..."

Birthday Customs around the world:

  • Japan used to celebrate all Birthdays on Jan. 1, but today, most Japanese celebrate on their true birth dates.
  • In Korea the most important birthday is the first birthday. The child is dressed in special clothes and displayed in front of a large gathering of friends and family members. They feast and leave money for the 1 year old. The child's future is told by the items he/she picks up.
  • In China and with India's maharajahs, reaching 60 years gains respect for that person having made it the first cycle of life.
  • Germany is believed to be where many of our common birthday traditions started such as cakes, parties, and blowing out candles.
  • Mexicans have piñatas filled with candies and treats shaped as animals or stars, a tradition over 300 years old.
  • Many countries name children after saints. They celebrate their birthdays on that saint's day. The main focus is on the saint on that day, the birthday celebration is secondary.

Birth Month Flowers:

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