The History of Birthday Celebrations

Every year we celebrate our birthdays with delicious cake, colorful candles and gifts from friends and family. Have you every wondered why? Here are the 6 big events that tell the history of birthday celebrations from early Egypt to modern day. Get the facts and see just who invented the birthday tradition. See the History of Birthday Celebrations infographic below.

The Pharaoh’s Birthday – 3000 BC-ish

The History of Birthday Celebrations all started way back in ancient Egypt when a Pharaoh threw a big feast for his birthday. This is referenced in Genesis 40:20 as “Pharaoh’s birthday”. It is thought by some that the Pharaoh’s birthday was the day they were born into a God and began their political power.

My Big Fat Greek Birthday 340 BC – 261 BC

Thankfully the Greeks brought cake to the party. As a way to celebrate their gods and goddesses, they created cakes as part of their sacrifice. One specific cake was the Amphipho, made of cheese. This cake was used for the god Artemis on the day of the full moon. To honor this day candles were added to the cake and lit.

When in Rome 304 BC

In 304 BCE the Roman Forum set up the first public calendar. This was a major event in the history of birthdays. Since Romans loved celebrating the beginning of things such as temples, cities, and gods, it was a natural transition to birthdays with new access to the calendar. They called the day “dies-natalis” known as birthday.

Rich German Cake 15th century

In the beginning of the 15th century German bakers were making cakes for weddings, holidays and the rich. By the end of the century, single layer birthday cakes were quickly becoming a standard in the bakery. By the 17th century the birthday cake was transforming into the cake you know and love today. It had multiple layers, icing and even decorations. Unfortunately, only the wealthy could afford a birthday cake until the industrially revolution drove the price down.

Do it for the kids 18th century

The Germans did it again with Kinderfest, a birthday celebration for children. There was cake, candles and good wishes. It was around this time that the amount of candles in the cake represented the age of the child. Gifts were not usually given but if one was provided it was a sign of a good year to come.

Sign Me a Song 20th century

The History of Birthday Celebrations 6th major event was brought to you by the Industrial Revolution. The modern era brought pre-made cakes to the masses and made birthday celebrations an annual tradition. Now, the only thing missing was a good song to celebrate the occasion. In 1924, the lyrics from ‘Good Morning to all’ were changed without consent to “Happy birthday to you”, to create the most recognized song in the English language.


The History of Birthday Celebrations Infographic