Summary : A birthday party is something that humans have been celebrating forever, but for starkly different reasons. The following is some cool info on how birthday parties came to be, and the different reasons that people celebrated them.
The idea of the birthday, at least in the modern form of a large party with a friends and family, isn’t as contemporary as you would believe. For centuries, humans have found a reason to celebrate on the day that they were born. Though different civilizations may have put different emphasis on their importance, all cultures have shared celebrating birthdays to some degree and at some point in history.
Birthday parties have simply always been celebrated. Some of the earliest records include massive celebrations for Roman birthdays. Not just a simple day of cake and friends, Ancient Roman birthdays were jubilant affairs that included immense gifting, massive feasts, and games that would sometime stretch for days, depending on the wealth of the participants. The Romans, however, didn’t really hold back from indulgence, so it is unclear if these festivals were explicitly for the reason of a birthday.
When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire and civilization gradually moved to the Middle Ages, birthday parties were rejected. Seen as inherently pagan, Christians during the Middle Ages instead chose to celebrate their Saints Day rather than focus on the individualism of a common birthday. Saint’s Days are the day attributed to the saint that you were named after; i.e. a boy in modern times named Thomas would celebrate his Saint’s Day on January 28th, in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Similar to this practice, many religions were taken to celebrating the birthday of a prominent figure or representative rather than their own birthday parties. Though individual birthday celebrations waned in the Middle Ages, the birth of Christ (Christmas) was always considered a meaningful holiday.
Likewise, many religions are taken to celebrating birthdays of people of note. Sikhs celebrate the birth of the first Guru, Guru Nanak; as well as other birthdays and festivals that commemorate the Gurus that shaped Sikh philosophies.
While a party in a sense was always considered part of the birthday tradition, the reasoning behind the party is often dynamic. For one thing, early birthdays in Germanic Europe were considered a time of protection. It was said that people were particularly vulnerable to evil spirits on the anniversary of their birth, so friends and family would gather to protect the vulnerable soul with a party and all-around good vibes.
However, birthday parties formed; there is still importance to the modern birthday party. While many cultures ascribe “coming-of-age” characteristics to certain birthdays (sweet 16 in modern United States, Bar and Bat Mitzvah in Judaism, age 20 in Japan), all birthday parties include gathering with friends and family for a supportive and enjoyable time. Pick the right birthday party venue, gather all your friends and family, eat some cake (don’t let it collapse during cooking, it’s a bad omen) and celebrate your birthday. Not only have you been doing it for years, so has humanity!
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