Birthday cakes have been a tradition since the Ancient Romans were around, and celebrating someone’s birth with a delicious pastry seems pretty logical. But have you ever wondered who the first pyromaniac was to light a cake on fire?
First let’s look at the tradition of the birthday cake. The idea of serving up cake in honour of someone’s birthday comes from a German tradition in the 15th Century.
German bakers began to market a special type of cake for birthdays that were more traditionally used to celebrate weddings. The cakes though were not actually cakes as we know them today (they were more like a sweet form of bread) and were called “Geburtstagorten”.
The recipe for Geburtstagorten developed as time passed, with further sweet ingredients and additional layers added. By the time the 17th century arrived, the Geburtstagorten had become a much more fancy affair with icing and decoration. However, Geburtstagorten from day one was an expensive treat, that was only really accessible to the wealthy. It wasn’t until industrial processes permitting mass-production developed, that Geburtstagorten became more affordable, and the tradition of birthday cakes really took off.
On to the next point where there are a few theories about the origins of birthday candles.
Many ancient cultures also believed that smoke carried their prayers to the heavens. Today’s tradition of making wishes before blowing out your birthday candles may have started with that belief.
Others believe that the tradition of birthday candles started with the Germans that sort of goes with the birthday cake origins. In 1746, Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf celebrated his birthday with an extravagant festival. And, of course, a cake and candles: “there was a Cake as large as any Oven could be found to bake it, and Holes made in the Cake according to the Years of the Person’s Age, every one having a Candle stuck into it, and one in the Middle.”
The Germans also celebrated with birthday candles during Kinderfest, a birthday celebration for children in the 1700s. A single birthday candle was lit and placed on the cake to symbolize the “light of life.”
Some believe that the tradition of birthday candles began in Ancient Greece, when people brought cakes adorned with lit candles to the temple of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The candles were lit to make them glow like the moon, a popular symbol associated with Artemis.
Today, we still put birthday candles on cakes. Many people still hold superstitious beliefs about them, too.
For example, many people believe that the birthday boy or girl (or website!) must make a silent wish before blowing out the candles. If all the candles are blown out in one breath, the wish will come true, and the person will have good luck throughout the year.
On the other hand, if it takes more than one breath to blow out all the candles or if the person tells someone what the wish was, it will supposedly not come true.
What do you think? Have you ever made a birthday wish? Did it come true?
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