The Story of Birthday Cake and Candles

It is believed that the first true birthday cake was made in medieval Germany. The Germans used to celebrate the children’s birthdays with a cake and call this entertainment “Kinderfest”, that is, the “Children’s Party”. The cakes at that time were a big bread-like product, later transformed into a much sweeter version called “Geburtstagstorte” or “Birthday Cake”.

In the 17th century, birthday cakes were made more elaborate and more appealing with decorations such as cream, layering, and flowers. However, such cakes could only be afforded by the wealthy upper class due to the very high price of the ingredients.

In the 18th century, food and cooking utensils became more accessible and therefore more affordable. As a result, cake prices dropped significantly and the number of cakes produced increased significantly.

According to one theory, the ritual of putting candles on the cake began in Ancient Greece. The Greeks made round cakes to honor the moon goddess Artemis. The lighted candles on the cake represented the moon’s glow, and the smoke from the candles carried prayers and wishes to the gods living in the heavens.

Many ancient cultures were also believed that smoke carried prayers to heaven. Today’s tradition of making wishes before you blow out your birthday candles may have started with this belief.

Some scholars also believe that the tradition actually started in Germany and a candle was placed on the cake to represent the “light of life”. The most important evidence supporting these theses is the birthday of Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf celebrated with an exaggerated festival in 1746. Count Ludwig placed candles as much as his age in a large cake at this festival and he took care to keep one of them in the middle.

Most western cultures today celebrate their birthdays with a cake, lighted candles, and a birthday song. The number of candles usually represents the age of the person celebrated. Many people believe that it is necessary to blow out all the candles in one breath and make a wish quietly. According to this common belief, a wish cannot be told to someone else, if it is shared with others, the wish will not come true.


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