Birthday and Birthday Gift Origins
A birthday is when a person was born, and that day is celebrated every year. The celebration generally involves a party, cake and gifts. In some communities, the person having a birthday is treated like a god or goddess, having all their demands met and their favorite foods present. For some, certain birthdays are treated as a rite of passage into the adult world. Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs are an example of this.
Not all cultures and religions celebrate birthdays. Orthodox Christians prefer to celebrate on their name day. Celebrated much like a birthday, the saint for which the Christian person is named is actually honored. Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate a birthday at all and prefer to give little gifts throughout the year.
The most recognized feature of a birthday party is the birthday cake. This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when the English would conceal small trinkets inside the cake. These trinkets served as a crude method of fortune telling. For example, finding a coin would denote that the finder would be a wealthy person while a thimble would represent never marrying and a small crucifix or rosary meant wisdom.
In most birthday party celebrations it is custom to receive at least one birthday gift. However some cultures require the birthday person to give small gifts to each guest while other cultures prefer small gestures of friendship and community over a material item. Offering to bring in the harvest, helping to cook large meals, or trading items with disproportionate costs are all acceptable gestures of friendship you might receive celebrating a birthday in this type of culture.
In most English speaking nations, the tune "Happy Birthday" is sung at the birthday party before the candles are blown out on the birthday cake. The melody of this song was originally "Good Morning to All" and was formulated by two teachers in 1893. The students enjoyed the song so much that the teachers began singing it at birthday parties by changing the lyrics to "Happy Birthday To You".
Birthday cards are also a special part of a birthday regardless of whether they are handmade or commercially produced. These cards usually contain well wishing messages and sometimes money or a small handwritten note. It is estimated that a billion birthday cards are sent each year with well wishers spending more than 3 billion plus annually.