ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Birthday Celebrations – Since When And Why Do People Celebrate Birthdays

Updated on June 25, 2013
digitalart @
digitalart @ | Source


A birthday is the day on which a person is born. Although the celebration of birthdays is by now an established custom in most cultures, it was not always the case.

In many cultures the celebration of birthdays is still a matter of dispute based on the believe that these kind of celebrations have historical connections with superstitions, magic and Paganism.

According to research the purpose of the original celebrations of a birthday was to keep evil spirits away. The noise - cheers of good wishes and singing - scared evil spirits away. The light of candles caught the attention of the gods (who were living in the sky), therefore the gods could hear the wish of the person blowing the candles. Gifts might have been rather for the gods than for the person whose birthday it was, or at least the gifts must have had a quality that could please the gods.

Keeping the significance of astrology and horoscopes in ancient times in mind, birthdays must have been celebrated in many cultures before Judaism and Christianity ended the custom.

But then the history_of_calendars. should also be kept in mind. But let’s regard this as beside the point.

The Lore of Birthdays by Ralph and Adelin Linton

The celebration of birthdays was banned in 1300 BCE

For many ages kings and queens had exclusive rights, such as celebrating the day they were born. Personally I am not sure if ordinary people would violate these exclusive rights. The Bible is one source confirming the tradition of kings -

  • Genesis 40:20: "And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants..."
  • Matthew 14:6: "But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod..."
  • Mark 6:21: "And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee...."

In Judaism and Christianity birthday celebrations were banned in 1300 BCE -

  • Deuteronomy 18:10-12: "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD"

BUT, in the realm of some Christian churches the celebration of a "Name Day" became the norm, meaning that on the feast day of a particular saint all persons with the same name as the saint were allowed to celebrate the day they were born, or rather the day they were named after the saint.

So obviously the celebration of birthdays was not always the norm, although in many cultures children at a specific age – somehow determinable - had to conform to certain religious rites and traditional customs.


Birthday Celebrations in South Africa

Until a few decades ago many illiterate people in South Africa did not even know on what day they were born. I remember a time when the answer to how old a person was, would be a hand sign stating that they are still small, or reaching the knee or hip or shoulders of an adult, or that they are old, because they are missing some or all of their teeth. The celebration of birthdays was a Western custom not practiced by Africans until quite recently.

When my father did the genealogical register of the Coetser family, he could only found in the archives of churches the dates on which a person was baptised and buried, which could have been any time in a child’s or adult’s life, keeping but only the following facts in mind -

  • 1652: The arrival of the first whites in South Africa
  • 1665: The arrival of the first minister, Johan van Arckel, subjected to the control of the Presbyterian church governance of the Netherlands.
  • 1806, under British government, Presbyterian ministers from Scotland were encouraged to serve the needs of Christian citizens, while many of these citizens were farmers, living far away from established settlements, as the Cape colony had expanded a long way beyond the Cape Peninsula since 1652.
  • 1 July 1837: In England the registration of births, marriages and deaths became mandatory (and probably also in South Africa, as it was at the time a British colony.)
  • 1838: The Groot Trek – White farmers (Afrikaner Calvinists), being in revolt inter alia due to British government’s indifference to border conflicts with the Xhosa’s, and Dutch Reformed ministers not providing sufficient pastoral ministry, left the Cape Province in search for a better life north of the Orange River.
  • 1860: The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk was eventually recognised as the state church of the South African Republic, separate from the Cape Church.
  • NB: The Catholic church was banned until 1795.

And many other developments until long after the Second World War (1945) kept the celebrations of birthdays even in Western culture a non-existing custom in South Africa.

© Martie Coetser (My maternal grandparents)
© Martie Coetser (My maternal grandparents)
© Martie Coetser (with my parents and siblings)
© Martie Coetser (with my parents and siblings)
© Martie Coetser (My son's 3rd birthday celebration - posing with me and his oupa Pozyn)
© Martie Coetser (My son's 3rd birthday celebration - posing with me and his oupa Pozyn)

Personal: Family tradition regarding birthdays

I remember my grandparents felt uncomfortable when the family made a fuzz about their birthdays. My own parents uncomplainingly accepted the ‘new tradition’ of paying the adult whose birthday it was a visit (if possible), though nobody were invited. Not visiting a relative on their birthday without a sound reason was considered to be an insult. Only one of my many aunts acquired the habit of sending birthday cards to adults and children on their birthdays.

In my time (1980 onwards) invitations to a personal visit became the custom. If not invited, surprising the birthday person with a telephone call and/or a birthday card was, and still is, the proper thing to do.

When I was a child in the 60’s and through-out into my adult life, it was the custom in our home to wake the birthday-person with the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Then the ‘special’ person would receive best wishes and a kiss from each member of the family and ONE gift.

Nowadays every member of the family surprises the birthday-person with a gift, plus a cup-cake with a candle to be blown, and maybe also breakfast in bed, AND a well-organized (and expensive) party in the afternoon or evening or the coming Saturday.

The song "Happy Birthday to You" was composed by the sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in 1893, though the original words were "Good Morning to You".

Modern Times

Although the celebration of birthdays has its origin in mythology, astrology, magic and idolatry, modern people of the 20-21 st century regard this custom in a positive light. They do not relate to any of the ancient practices.

Today, people celebrate their birthday with joy and gratefulness for the opportunity to live and love and also for the wonder of being loved and appreciated by their relatives and friends.

Happy birthday, Linda Bilyeu!

Stuart Miles @
Stuart Miles @

Today (25 June) we celebrate Linda Bilyeu’s 50th birthday

Linda Bilyeu, aka sunshine625 is a writer in HubPages who lives with her husband and family near Orlando, Florida, USA.

Linda is one of my most dearest online friends. Although we don’t chat on a daily basis, just seeing her coming and going in my online space keeps me happy and contented. Linda’s shining and Positive-Attitude, even at times when most people will flee or fall, keeps me inspired and eager to follow her beautiful example.

Since the very beginning I could relate to Linda's way of sticking to her convictions, principles and the set of rules she has established in order to reach her goals. Being Linda’s friend was my choice, and since the very beginning I knew that her friendship would be an asset and not a liability in my personal balance sheet.

Marcoujor (my awesome sista in cyberspace) and I have decided to surprise Linda with a set of poems (haikus). Marcoujor wrote the haikus and I had the privilege to change them into haigas.

Especially for our dear friend, Linda Bilyeu, aka sunshine625.....

Linda is Sunshine and Summertime

Sunshine and Summertime (Lyrics)

We've got barefoot ladies and tricked out Mercedes

And people getting crazy on the boulevard

We've got classic colas and ice cold Coronas

And big pool parties in the back yard.


I said "Hey, that's the way we do it

New friends and blue skies that never end

Hey, that's the way we like it

Good times, sunshine and summertime."


You'll see straw sombreros and T-top Cameros

And stereos blasting in the parking lot

You'll see rock hard bodies and bikini hotties

And everybody's got it going on and showing what they've got.

Hey, that's the way we do it

New friends and blue skies that never end

Hey, that's the way we like it

Good times, sunshine and summertime.


I said, "Hey everybody, can't you feel the rhythm now?

Hey everybody, don't you want to party?

Hey everybody, can't you feel the rhythm now?

Hey everybody, don't you wanna party?"


Hey, that's the way we do it

New friends and blue skies that never end

Hey, that's the way we like it

Good times, sunshine and summertime

Good times, sunshine and summertime

Good times, sunshine and summertime


To Linda, from SAA and MM.....


Today is Linda's birthday, the first day of the rest of her life. Nevermind the history of birthdays and previous customs, we celebrate TODAY the day of Linda's birth and wish her only the best of days ahead.

May she always shine; may she always be the sunshine in the lives of her relatives and friends.

Do you think the celebration of birthdays is an improper custom?

See results

Did you know Linda is a saxophone player in the Hubville Symphonic Wind Orchestra?

Follow this source and enjoy Linda's audition -
Follow this source and enjoy Linda's audition - | Source

This was my part of Linda's gift....

If today is also YOUR birthday -


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)