The First Birthday Cakes and Celebrations


Maria Ruiz, Staff Writer

On March 15th, I had my 16th birthday. I had a wonderful day with the cutest cake. Today, I wonder where and when the tradition of the birthday celebration originated.

Cultures have been creating celebratory ‘cakes’ for thousands of years. There are multiple origin stories from different countries, however. Cakes, specifically for birthdays, similar to what we enjoy today, are believed to have originated in Germany in the 1400’s. Until the industrial revolution, birthday cakes were almost exclusively for the wealthy. The industrial revolution helped to spread birthday cakes to the public as the advancement and proliferation of technology and materials made them cheaper and more easily produced. The tradition of lit candles adorning a cake goes back thousands of years, but did not necessarily become associated with birthdays until much later.

While many cultures developed birthday celebrations separately, the Egyptians were the first ones to get the party started. When Egyptian pharaohs were crowned gods, they were “birthed.” That means the first birthday celebration wasn’t marking the birth of a human, but rather the birth of a god. The birthday of a man was celebrated every year with a feast, friends and family, and gifts.

The first actual birthday cake was for children’s birthdays in Germany in the Middle Ages. The history of candles on cakes can be traced back to Kinderfest, a birthday celebration for children. This tradition also makes use of candles and cakes. There, they were free to celebrate another year in a place where Germans believed that adults protected children from the evil spirits attempting to steal their souls. In those times there was no tradition of bringing gifts to a birthday; guests would merely bring good wishes for the birthday person. However, if a guest did bring gifts it was considered to be a good sign for the person whose birthday it was.

Next time you are at a birthday party and you get a nice slice of cake take a moment to think about the tradition, hard work, and appreciate the moment. To find out more about how Egypt, Germany, and other countries and cultures contributed to the birthday celebrations check out