105: Birthdays

A Thousand Things to Talk About
105: Birthdays

m”>Bible verses about Birthdays (Bible Tools)
Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Celebrate Birthdays? (
If the Egyptians Drowned in the Red Sea where are Pharoh’s Chariots? (Google Books)
An Uncommon History of Common Things, Volume 1 (Google Books)
When Did People Start Celebrating Birthdays? (HistoryNET)

Full episode text

Song copyrights aside, birthdays are something that many people choose to mark in some way in the modern world. Especially since the creation of the happy birthday wish on Facebook, it’s almost impossible to avoid your own birthday (or the day you told Facebook is your birthday), even if you wanted to.

But – depending on your culture of origin, this may be something entirely new, entirely old-hat, or something really to avoid.

In China, tradition has long been to celebrate a baby’s first birthday and subsequent birthdays, as a hope for a continued long life. Noodles are the traditional birthday food, with the long, uninterrupted noodles standing in for that long life.

Egyptians also celebrated the “birthday” of their pharaohs in ancient, but that isn’t the day they were born into the world. Instead, a “birthday” was considered to be the day the pharaoh became a god – the day they were coronated. It was a festival day, because it was a day to celebrate the godhood of the leader.

In the book The Uncommon History of Common Things, the birthday cake’s origin begins with the Romans, who celebrated the birthdays of family and friends; marking a 50th birthday with a special cake.

In the United States today, birthday celebrations – especially those with cake – have been tied to the Industrial Revolution, when the ingredients that went into making a cake become available to more than the most affluent of individuals.

Of course, in some cultures, religions, and traditions, celebrating a birthday is not considered to be good practice. Early Christians considered birthday celebrations to be sinful, because we are each born with original sin, and celebrating a birthday was a way of celebrating that sin. Jehovah’s Witnesses still hold this tradition, pointing to the fact only birthdays celebrated in the Bible were those of the sinful pharaohs.