Food For Thought: Why Do We Eat Cake On Birthdays And Light It With Candles?

3 min read

No matter how many cool parties you attend as an adult, you will always have room in your heart for your childhood birthday parties – with all your friends and family wearing colourful caps and cheering you on for the highlight of the party, the cake-cutting ceremony. Cakes are undoubtedly an integral part of every birthday celebration, so much so that a birthday might feel incomplete until you cut the cake. Similarly, a birthday cake is incomplete without being lit by candles. So how did this sweet dish become so important for our special day? And why do we top it with candles, of all things? Curious? Read on to learn the history of birthday cakes.

Your Birthday Cake Goes Way Back To Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptians did not give us a birthday cake. However, they did give us the concept of marking a ‘birth’ day. Yes, this is a concept as it was not always a given to make a note of your date of birth. However, in the case of the ancient Egyptians, the ‘birth’ day did not mean the actual day of someone being born on Earth. It was used to mark a pharaoh’s coronation as a god or goddess.
Also Read: Top 13 Birthday Cake Recipes | Easy Cake Recipes | Cake Recipes

Greeks Gave Us The Cake And Candles

Inspired by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks later adopted the ‘birth’ day tradition and brought a cake to the table. The cake was a sacred offering to Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The round shape of the cake comes from the moon, and candles were lit on it as a sign that they were shining up at the moon. Back then, these cakes were made using baked loaves, biscuits, pastries, and sponges sweetened with honey.

Germans Introduced The Modern Birthday Party Cake

Since the Middle Ages, Germans used to celebrate Christ’s birth with a birthday cake along with Christmas trees. After birthday cakes became a conventional method to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the cake element was eventually added to children’s birthday celebrations. The Germans would call the child’s birthday party “Kinderfeste.”
Also Read: 13 Best Eggless Cake Recipes | Easy Eggless Cake Recipes

Modern Meaning Of Birthday Candles

As per the “Kinderfeste” tradition, the child would get a cake on their birthday morning, lit with candles that represented their age, plus an additional candle which signifies hope for another full year on the planet.

Rise In Popularity Of The Birthday Cake Tradition

Since sugar used to be very expensive earlier, not everyone was able to embrace the birthday cake tradition. It was only after the Industrial Revolution that the general masses could easily afford sugar and other ingredients used in cakes.
After the Germans and Europeans migrated to American lands in the late 1600s, the idea of birthday cake also travelled with them. During colonialism in the 1600s, the birthday cake tradition also reached other parts of the world, such as Africa and Asia.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours