As we’re at the start of a new year when we will all have a Birthday, have you ever wondered where the tradition of Birthday cakes began?
The word ‘cake’ is said to have been used as early as the 13th century, and to be derived from ‘kaka’- an Old Norse word. The word ‘Kaka nowadays is more likely to refer to the way you feel after eating far too much of the aforementioned Birthday cake.
Birthday Cakes are naturally served to a person on his or her birthday. They are often decorated with the person’s name, and carry a message of congratulations. The reason for the name on the cake is actually so that everyone knows that it is YOUR Birthday, and that YOU are the one who is a year older.
Candles on the cake represent the number of years a person has been alive. There is also a tradition to place one extra candle to bring good luck. What usually happens is that you cannot judge anything by the number of candles on a cake, as most people lie through their teeth about their age.
In earlier times, Birthday cakes were mostly round in shape. The Ancient Greeks offered round shaped cake to the Goddess of the Moon – Artemis. Birthday cakes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes now, as do people. The round ones represent what you will look like if you keep eating them.
The tradition of placing candles on a Birthday cake is attributed to the early Greeks, who placed lit candles on cakes to make them glow like the moon for their Moon Goddess. Others say that candles were placed on the cake because people believed the smoke would carry their wishes and prayers to the Gods. The wishes would likely be in the form of “Please don’t let me look as old as I am, and don’t let anyone know that I am a lot older than I am admitting to.”
Others believe that a custom originated in Germany where people used to place a large candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’. These days, if one candle is used, it simply symbolises that there isn’t enough space for the real required amount.
In present times a silent wish is made before blowing out the candles. It is believed that blowing out all candles in one breath means the wish will come true and the person will enjoy good luck in the coming year. If the candles ignite in a blue flash, it means that the lucky Birthday person has drunk too much alcohol before the aforementioned blowing.