What Is the Origin of Birthday Cakes?
The custom of having a cake to celebrate one’s birthday goes back to an ancient Greek tradition. Worshipers of the moon goddess Artemis put cakes lighted with candles on the altars of her temple on the anniversary of her birth.
Hundreds of years later, people in Germany celebrated birthdays of children with a cake and candles. The cake had a candle for each year of the child’s age. The lighted candles were said to bring good luck through the coming year. You share your birthday with approximately 10 million other people-that makes a lot of cakes and candles!
Until the industrial revolution, birthday cakes were almost exclusively for the wealthy, as they were able to afford such extravagance. The industrial revolution helped to spread birthday cakes to the public as the advancement and proliferation of technology and materials made them cheaper and more easily produced.
Like cakes themselves, the tradition of lit candles adorning a cake goes back thousands of years, but did not necessarily become associated with birthdays until much later.
As with the marketing of birthday cakes, the addition of candles is also attributed to the Germans around the 1700’s when Kinderfesten, birthday celebrations for children, became more common. The custom was to place a candle for each year of their life as well as extra candles to represent years to come.
While birthday celebrations vary all over the world, most cultures do celebrate the anniversary of birth in some way, and baked sweets like birthday cakes seems to be a very popular way to do so!