I’ve been having some fun lately exploring fascinating ways various cultures celebrate birthdays. A lot of it amounts to how we think about time and belief systems from one culture to the next.
I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and in the last of this series let’s take a quick look at how celebrating birthdays likely began, because believe it or not, they actually served an important purpose other than a reason to party!
We live to keep track of time don’t we?
It’s the way we measure most things that go on in our lives.
I mean, we spend a lot of energy keeping to a schedule, watching the clock, or nodding as we turn another page of the calendar.
Think of it.
Depending on circumstances, something invisible is either on our side or working against us.
It’s our guide to approaching what needs to be done between now and an imaginary point in the future.
It’s also something we cherish or often take for granted.
Which brings me to this astonishing point!
The “Celebration Industry”, which includes the birthday party segment has become a $38 billion dollar industry built almost exclusively around our simple preoccupation with time.
Just goes to show that the simple solution is most often the best solution.
The birthday party business rolls with the tide, adapting to market shifts according to trends and motivations of parents and kids from one decade or generation to the next.
One thing for certain however, is that the custom of celebrating your birthday every year is as predictable as the sun setting in the west. If that were to change, all bets are off, but it’s not going to happen.
Being in the business, I’m curious about the origins of the birthday celebration.
Your birth date is like a book mark. It may fade but will never disappear.
Interestingly, the original purpose in celebrating a birthday wasn’t so much about marking time as it was a reflex, seeking protection in response to fear.
Some might consider it a superstition.
An interesting article at BirthdayCelebrations.net describes how thousands of years ago a birthday was a time when a child was vulnerable to negative spirits, as opposed to being visited upon by positive ones. The idea of celebrating and making a fuss was about keeping bad spirits at bay by surrounding the child with friends and family, using noisemakers as a means to frighten away evil spirits.
The celebration itself sounds like what we do today, however, for entirely different reasons. We think we’ve banished those bad spirits for good now, I guess.
Taking it a step further,
The tradition of lighting candles began as a way of sending prayers to the gods. It was believed that gods lived in the sky and by lighting candles, the prayers could be seen and answered. When a birthday wish was made and the candles were blown out it was considered yet another way to signal the gods and have your prayers answered.
These jewels of insight brought to light by the BirthdayCelebrations.net piece are fascinating. While the context of birthday traditions evolved and changed from one culture or society to the other, the fundamentals of gatherings, lighting candles, making wishes and sending prayers have remained intact after thousands of years!
It is the social convention that birthdays are a time to bring people together to celebrate.
It hadn’t occurred to me that the ritual is practically imprinted in our DNA.
In my Princess Tea Party business, more than 7,500 little princesses have closed their eyes, made a wish, and blown out the candles on their birthday cupcake, hoping their dreams come true.
Now, when I light the candles and we sing the happy birthday song, I appreciate it with deeper insight, adding a little silent prayer of protection for these precious little one’s.
Birthday parties are as old as time. You may want to consider joining the party by starting a children’s birthday party business.
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