There are many traditions that surround the birthday celebration and often, like many other traditions and celebrations, we find that this changes and is varied across many different cultures and in different countries. What we celebrate here may be different than the way that it is celebrated somewhere else on our old and varied planet. With so many years under its belt, our world is experienced in the art of birthdays.
The birthday celebrations I find myself used to include things such as cake, gatherings, and presents. But when I looked into traditions from other cultures, I found many that I had never heard of before. One such tradition hails from China. While birthdays aren’t the only occasions in which these are served, Yi Mein or Long Life noodles are a feature of Chinese birthdays. The longer the noodles that are served for the occasion, the bigger the wish for a long life is believed to be. The belief was once that a long face was a symbol of a long life to come however a minister of the Martial Empororer from the Han Dynasty pointed out that it was strange to wish for a long face and so the saying because about something more flexible, noodles, instead.
One tradition that I have experienced that I wanted to take a deeper look into was the presence of cake and candles at birthday celebrations. It is not something I have really thought to question before but there are often things in our life we don’t question that actually have a quite interesting origin. This, for example, seems to find its origins in Ancient Greece, when people would have cake with candles once a month as a celebration of the birth of the Goddess of the moon and the hunt, Artemis. The cake’s round shapes were meant to signify the moon over which she had power. Candles were supposed to reflect the glowing surface of the moon, which we know now is actually a reflection of the light of the sun. The smoke that emitted from the top of the candles was seen to send the people’s good wishes to the Goddess with which they were celebrating. Cakes of the time were however far more simple but it was not until 1600 that these cakes became more elaborate, layered, and included frosting or other such decorations that likely would have been considered ‘rich’ at the time that they were introduced.
Every day, we grow a little bit older. On days that we celebrate this fact, I think it is important that we know what we are celebrating. We are celebrating life, what has been, and what is to come. We are celebrating our place in the world, and allowing others to show their appreciation that we are here. Sometimes it is hard in a world big to see that we make our mark but it is not just on days where we celebrate that we have an effect, but every day we make a difference by choosing simply to live.