As I am observing another trip around the sun today, I thought I might reflect a bit on the traditions behind birthday celebrations. In research, I found that many of the customs surrounding birthdays have evolved from Pagan ritual, but have been embraced by countless cultures and religions worldwide.
For thousands of years people all over the world have thought of a birthday as a very special day. Long ago, people believed that on a birthday a person could be helped by good spirits, or hurt by evil spirits. So, when a person had a birthday, friends and relatives gathered to protect him or her. And that is supposedly how birthday parties began.
The idea of putting candles on birthday cakes goes back to ancient Greece. The Greeks worshipped many gods and goddesses. Among them was one called Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The Greeks celebrated her birthday once each month by bringing special cakes to her temple. The cakes were round like a full moon. And, because the moon glows with light, the cakes were decorated with lighted candles.
More and more, though, people the world over attach a certain magic to their actual date of birth. . . We may wear a ring with our birthstone in it for good luck. And when we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, we are careful to keep what we wished a secret. The mythology behind this tradition is actually Wiccan. Fire is a symbol of power and when you extinguish the flame the rising smoke carried the secret wish into the skies.
Though there is no one origin of the pointy party hat, this distinctive headgear has been around at the very least since 2800 BC, and was recognized as a symbol of power. In Wicca, the cone of power is the name given to the union of witches’ forces gathered around the circle, aimed at a common goal. In parts of ancient Syria, the cone was a symbol of Astarte (Asherah). Overall, these cylindrical birthday hats continue to be the proud tradition in many different cultures, with the point of the hat elevating the wearer to the status of royalty—which, we all agree, a person becomes on their birthday.
I personally celebrate my birthday without much fanfare. A hike in the mountains, a swim in the ocean or the lake and the enjoyment of some of my favorite foods with friends make my day complete. The day of one’s birth is not the important thing. It is merely the beginning of our life’s journey. And I have enjoyed all 62 of these trips around the sun – with or without cake, candles and cones. Onward and Upward!