Most parents in western countries celebrate their children’s birthdays by giving presents, however, birthdays weren’t always celebrated in this way. In this blog post, we take a look at the tradition of giving gifts to celebrate birthdays, how it started, and how it differs in other nations.
Who Started the Tradition of Giving Gifts?
The act of giving gifts goes as far back as the time of cavemen, perhaps even right to the origin of our species. Of course, gifts at this time weren’t the kind of goods we’d like to receive nowadays! Cave people typically gave items from nature, such as animal teeth, perhaps with a hole in to be worn as a necklace.
Over the years, the types of gifts given has changed. Coins and herds of livestock were given as gifts in later years. Nowadays, gifts can be just about anything. For adults, it’s common to receive a household gift such as a candle, flowers or a favorite food item. Teenagers can be difficult to buy for. Gifts can range from anything from gadgets and tech to make up or clothes. Great present for boys and girls on their birthday can be anything that suits them. Most commonly given gifts for children are toys and games, although clothes, chocolate and candies and things for their room.
Other Historical Birthday Traditions
In ancient Greek times, gifts were given to those celebrating their birthday as a way to get rid of evil spirits. They also used noisemakers to help scare away the bad spirits. Perhaps this is where the use of party poppers to celebrate birthdays came from. In Roman times, gifts were only given to men on their birthday. Women started celebrating their birthday sometime around the 12th century.
Adding candles to a birthday cake is something else we can thank the ancient Greeks for – they started this tradition as a way to honor their gods and goddesses, however, birthday cake as we know it today was developed by Germans towards the end of the 18th century. This was the same time when ‘Kinderfeste’ first started taking place – the 18th century equivalent of a child’s birthday party.
Which Countries don’t Celebrate Birthdays?
Not all cultures celebrate their birthdays the same way. Some people, because of religious beliefs do not celebrate birthdays. Some cultures do celebrate, but with different traditions. In Russia for example, you might be given a personalized pie instead of a cake. Some cultures don’t recognize official birthdays, with many people worldwide not knowing which date or even which year they were born in.
The Future of Birthday Celebrations
Birthday customs and traditions are always changing and adapting, with many popular American customs spreading to other countries. For example, many British parents now choose to do a ‘cake smash’ with their child for their first birthday, a trend which was virtually unheard of just a couple of years ago. One thing’s for sure – birthday celebrations are set to get bigger and better as time goes on.