As we’ve mentioned in one of our previous posts, it was the Egyptians who started the birthday tradition around 3,000 years BCE. Thanks to the ingenious men and women of Egypt, we are allowed to ask our friends and family, guilt-free and with gusto, to make a big deal out of us and buy us things once a year.
It is the national holiday of “I”, the systematic celebration of the passing of life and time, the time of joy and for some, after a certain age, a time of apprehension and apathy.
It’s a socially determined yearly friendship-and-family tax, a day when the real soldier of the battle is ignored (the mother) and the person who had a much easier job is praised (you). When looking behind the drapes of a bit of sarcastic fun, it is also a beautiful celebration of friendship, of familial ties; a coming together of a people united by a shared locality, by shared visions, ideas, and values.
Since birthdays are so wide-spread, interesting, and ever-present, there are a ton of facts and interesting trivia about them.
- For example, did you know that blowing on a birthday cake can increase the number of bacteria on it anywhere from 14 to 120 times? It was proven in a study done by Paul Dawson, a professor of food safety at Clemson University (US). They brought in cakes, measured bacteria levels, brought in people, had them blow on the cakes, and then measured bacteria levels again. They couldn’t prove how (and if) harmful it was, naturally, but now it’s out there for you to know. Might want to lay off the candle-blowing for a while?
- The Ancient Greeks were the first ones to have added candles to cakes (still used to celebrate their gods and goddesses). And, it was the ancient Romans who first celebrated the birthdays of common men and women. Thank you, Romans, for enabling me to get my presents. On the other hand, the Christian Church thought birthdays to be a pagan ritual in its early days, and therefore quite evil. Phew – everyone must be really glad that that point of view didn’t stick around.
- Another interesting piece of trivia about birthdays is the fact that regular people could afford birthday cakes only with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. Until then, birthday cakes were reserved for the affluent and wealthy, seeing as the ingredients necessary to bake a cake were ridiculously expensive. Due to advances in mass production and accessibility of ingredients, more people than ever could now afford a birthday cake. Imagine having to celebrate your 10th birthday with a candle stuck in a minced meat pie! Well… That actually doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
- The biggest birthday cake in the world was made in 1989, in Fort Payne, Alabama, for the city’s 100th It weighed 128,000 pounds, a couple thousand pounds less than the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Well, how long it took them to eat all that – no one knows.
- According to published statistics, most people have birthdays during the month of August. Also, July and September are #2 and #3 on that ladder. Ah, blessed be the winter times with their loneliness and the depressing cold outside. The month with the least birthdays is February.
- Did you know that the most popular song in English is the wretched <please remove the writer’s personal opinions> “Happy Birthday” song? And since it was written in 1893, it has obviously stood the test of time fairly well and will continue to do so, probably well until the end of time. Why, what else could you sing for someone’s birthday? Well, if this summer is any indicator, Despacito? Hope not.
A couple more incredible birthday facts to follow, after which we’ll wrap the article up.
- Did you know that almost two billion birthday cards are sent each year just in the United States, which accounts for almost 58% of cards sent worldwide?
- In England, you reach a certain level of status once you turn 80 because you get a telegram by the Queen for your 80th birthday; also the 90th and the 100th.
- In India, don’t wrap your gifts in black or white wrapping paper – it brings back luck.
- When in France or Italy, don’t be surprised if someone remembers your Name day and not your birthday; it is almost more important there.
- Get a job in Germany, by the way, because Germans quite often get a half day off work for their birthday. I mean, how do you beat that?
Don’t forget people’s birthdays.
Even if the custom doesn’t mean much to you, if you don’t celebrate your birthday, if you think it’s a charade, a celebration of an ever-closer death, or what-have-you, don’t forget. However vehemently they deny it, people love to be thought of (of course, by your friends and family, not Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs); they love when others make a big deal about them when they are the center of attention.
If you can’t afford presents, write letters. Handwritten or hand-typed letters might even be worth more to some people than gifts – why, almost anyone can go out and buy the first thing they see, but it takes a lot of effort to put together a well-written letter.
And if that doesn’t work for you, for whatever reason you may have, just be there for your family and friends. Knowing that you will stand by them through thick and thin, that they can rely on you no matter what, that they will always come first (or close to first) – is invaluable and priceless.
And if you haven’t celebrated your birthdays for a while now, try getting out of your comfort zone and do it.
You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll love it.