Birthdays began as a form of protection for the spirit in Pagan tradition. It was believed that on the day of one’s birth, one was closer to the spirit world, and so their spirit was more easily susceptible to good or evil omens. The quality of one’s year would depend on the events of one’s birthday -- they could either become ill or find great fortune. Both birthday candles and birthday parties popularized as ways to attract good omens, and avoid evil ones. Flames, music, noise, and the good wishes of friends and families, were all ways to ward off evil spirits.
A birthday card from the early 1900's.
Since the Pagans started their tradition, birthdays have become an annual custom throughout the world. Different countries, religions, and cultures, have established their own birthday traditions and superstitions.
Here are some from all around the world:
Canada: Butter Noses
In Canada, on the Atlantic side, birthdays are celebrated by being ambushed with grease or butter to the face for good luck.
Latin America: Quinceañera
In Latin American countries, a girl’s fifteenth birthday is called her Quinceañera, which marks her passage from childhood to womanhood.
Vietnam: Happy... New Year
In Vietnam everyone celebrates their birthday on New Year’s Day, a day they call “tet.” While this seems to take away from the tradition of one’s birthday being “their special day” as in other countries, in many ways this makes more sense. People become older, all together, on New Years Day.
Greece: No Happy Early Birthday
In Greece it is considered bad luck to wish someone happy birthday or celebrate earlier than one’s actual date of birth.
China: Egg Noodles
In China, birthdays are celebrated with a special meal of Egg Noodles. Long noodles symbolize longevity -- one should slurp as far as possible before biting down.
Germany: The Birthday Cake
While today Birthday Cakes are eaten in my places, the concept of a Birthday Cake originated in medieval Germany. During Kinderfest, coarse, breadlike cakes were baked for children’s birthdays. Gradually, the cakes became much sweeter, more similar to the birthday cakes we imagine today.
Wherever you are, birthdays are great fun for everyone. Now, we at Rip Van Wafels are giving you a piece of birthday celebration, any day of the year. With our newest wafel flavor… BIRTHDAY CAKE!