Why Do We Blow Out Candles on Birthday Cakes?

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Birthday cakes have been a tradition since the Ancient Romans were around, and celebrating someone’s birth with a delicious pastry seems pretty logical. But have you ever wondered who the first pyromaniac was to light a cake on fire?

There are a few theories about the origins of birthday candles.

Some believe that the tradition of birthday candles began in Ancient Greece, when people brought cakes adorned with lit candles to the temple of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The candles were lit to make them glow like the moon, a popular symbol associated with Artemis.

Many ancient cultures also believed that smoke carried their prayers to the heavens. Today’s tradition of making wishes before blowing out your birthday candles may have started with that belief.

Others believe that the tradition of birthday candles started with the Germans. In 1746, Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf celebrated his birthday with an extravagant festival. And, of course, a cake and candles: “there was a Cake as large as any Oven could be found to bake it, and Holes made in the Cake according to the Years of the Person’s Age, every one having a Candle stuck into it, and one in the Middle.”

The Germans also celebrated with birthday candles during Kinderfest, a birthday celebration for children in the 1700s. A single birthday candle was lit and placed on the cake to symbolize the “light of life.”

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January 2, 2014 - 9:30am
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