Blowing out candles have been done for more than centuries now. However, most of us don’t know the reason why we even blow candles. While we’re not obliged to know why it will still be a cool thing to know.
This is the case especially if you’re from a country that has practiced this tradition for ages. Thus, we’ll need to go back in time to trace the origin of why we blow out candles on birthday cakes. Stay tuned for more!
Possible Origins of a Birthday Cake
Before we even go on to talk about the candles, it’s important first to know the origin of the birthday cakes. Of all kinds of food, why do we celebrate with a cake? More so, why choose a form of pastry?
The answer to this lies from way back in the Middle Ages, particularly in Germany. Many believe that the origin of a birthday cake started with German kids. The celebration is called a Kinderfest. Back then, birthday cakes were still rough in texture. Cakes were closer to bread back then.
The reason why Germans started using cakes is because of its versatility. Not only is it delicious, easy to cook, and convenient to bring, but cakes are also flexible in design. Because of this flexibility, the cakes are easy to bake to your liking.
You can use different icings to write names, ages, and birthday wishes. Likewise, the same icing can be used to draw creative ornaments on the birthday cake. Not to mention, cake masters can layer cakes in a way that looks majestic.
However, one important note that we should all remember is that this is a privilege for the wealthy back then. The cake craze started around the 17th century, but back then, resources were expensive.
Cake ingredients such as flour, sugar, and butter were all rare commodities. Likewise, the pastry materials and equipment were only afforded by the rich.
Thus, we can conclude here that since birthday cakes are expensive back then, blowing candles also meant a privilege for the wealthy.
So, where do the candles come in?
Speaking of birthday candles, these little sticks of wax are first used in a different country. While Germany might be the first country to use birthday cakes, it was the ancient Greeks that used candles.
However, always remember that this is only in theory. We’re not sure whether or not the Greeks or Germans started all of this, but recorded history says so. Ancient Greece made use of candles as a symbol of their Greek goddess.
This goddess is no other than Artemis, the goddess of hunting and wilderness. Artemis was a goddess that was always looked upon by the Greeks. Not only because of her affinity for hunting, but also because of her brother. Artemis’ brother is Apollo, who is the Greek god of the sun.
Since Apollo was affiliated to the sun, many believers created a lunar symbol for Artemis. This is where the candles come in. Since the Greeks would want to honor Artemis, they will light up candles on round cakes as a symbol of the moon.
The cakes that the Greeks offered resembled that of the moon’s light. This is made possible because of the light from the flames of the candles. Not only do the flames symbolize the shine of the moon, but it also symbolizes the light of life.
The essence of birthday candles does not stop only as a symbol of the moon. After all, blowing candles are so famous worldwide, while honoring Artemis isn’t. So where exactly did this come from?
When the Greeks offer their cakes, they make a prayer before blowing out the candle flames. The purpose of this is to increase the blessings that they receive from Artemis. However, the real symbol behind it lies in the smoke.
Whenever the candle flames are blown, there’s a subtle smoke that rises from the burnt tip. This smoke is believed by the Greeks to be holy, mostly because their prayers and wishes are carried by the smoke.
As the smoke rises, they believe that their wind takes their wish to Artemis.
If you think about it, the ancient traditions of the Greeks are exactly what we’re practicing right now. We've honored a cake on our birthdays, just like how Artemis is offered one. We make a wish, and then we blow the candles hoping for it to come true.
The tradition of the ancient Greeks evolved after the Middle-Aged Germans created the Kinderfest. Not only did it become a lot more casual, but they also added a new element: the number of candles.
Nowadays, the candles on a cake do not symbolize a moon’s light. Instead, each candle signifies a year that has passed in our lives. The meaning of the candles has completely changed nowadays, as they represent our lifespan instead of a moon.
Apart from the candles, we’ve also modernized the cakes by adding messages on the cakes too. Now, there are greetings, texts, and even drawings that relate to our special day. But all of this wasn't possible had it not been for the ancient Greeks and the German kids from the 1700s!
It’s more than Just a Birthday Cake
After reading this, you’ll probably start to look at birthday candles and cakes more than what they are. It really helps to know these smaller details because it makes us knowledgeable and appreciative of history.
Personally, upon knowing this information, I became more grateful to the people who give a cake on my birthday. After all, it has symbolized hope, honor, and gratitude for life for centuries now.
So, the next time if you blow candles on birthday cake, remember how important its symbolism is! While our wishes might not get carried to a special deity like Artemis, it’s sure to be in the hearts of the ones we love.
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