Blowing out a candle based on your age is something that is a tradition for many people around the world. For many of us, we have done it ever since we had our first birthday and have never questioned where it comes from and why we do it. It is something that adds to your birthday and without the traditional candle blowing and singing of ‘happy birthday,’ your birthday might not feel complete. Even the biggest supermarket chains have birthday number candles for those that are old enough for the candles to no longer fit on the cake.
When were birthday candles invented?
You may be wondering when birthday candles were invented but you will be surprised to hear that they were made centuries after people had birthday cakes. This meant that in the 15th-century people would celebrate their birthdays with bread-like cake, without any candles. It was not until later that birthday candles were invented which was in 1746. They were first used by a man named Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who was German and wanted a lavish birthday celebration. To do this he put candles onto his birthday cake, the number of candles corresponding to his age.
The History of birthday candles
After the first recorded time that people placed candles onto their birthday cakes, it slowly spread across Germany and Europe and more and more people started participating in the tradition. That being said, it took decades for birthday candles to become popular in the USA, but the 1850s is when people really took a liking to it in America. It was also a tradition from the start for people to sing a birthday rhyme/song before the individual blew out the candles.
Since their invention, people have attached the superstitious belief to candles that whatever you wish for upon a candle is going to come true. For some of us, we will have seen this work, whereas others may not but it’s still widely believed and adds to the tradition. Another belief about candles is that if you wish upon them but tell someone the wish or do not blow out all the candles at once then the wish will not come true.
How has this tradition changed over time?
Much like many things, over time as societies change and the world develops traditions are adapted to the people living there currently. It was not until 1893 that the song Happy Birthday to You was written, meaning that the songs that were sung prior are not the ones we all know the words off by heart to today. The candles used today have a much larger variety as well and are safer to use. We see all types of candles including those with numbers on them and even ones that are battery-powered. For safety reasons, now candles are much smaller and thinner meaning that the wax does not drip into the frosting. Even though the wax is non-toxic, it is safer than those used back in the 18th century.
So although times have changed and the candle has adapted, not much is different about blowing out birthday candles and what they symbolise. Overall, this tradition is one that has brought joy to those on their birthday for many centuries, and we are sure it will be carried on for many more to come.
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