Who Knew?

Jaime McFarlin

There must be something erotic about late summer because it seems to me April has an abundance of birthdays. Maybe it is because my father, sister, cousin, boyfriend and various friends all have April birthdays within a few weeks of each other and my perspective is skewed, but I feel like Hallmark is really making bank this month. After honoring so many birthdays, I was extremely curious as to why the date of birth is celebrated anyway, especially in a manner that consists of bad cake, cards, a birthday party and gifts.
Pagan cultures are the first recorded to have celebrated birthdays. But really, the celebration was more a form of protection, because they believed evil visited a person on the day of their birth and merriment was needed to surround the person and scare off evil. Birthdays were also recorded in order to be able to cast horoscopes. Very early Christians declined from celebrating birthdays, even the birth (and rebirth) of Christ, because they considered any celebration of a birthday to be pagan in custom. Similarly, ancient Jews were, and modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses are of the same conviction. Eventually, the birth of gods, kings and nobles were celebrated, and then ultimately most men commemorated their birthdays.
In ancient Greece, Artemis, goddess of the moon, received a round, moon-shaped cake on the honored day of her birth. It was custom to light candles on the cake to imitate the glow of the moon, and the current tradition of candles on the cake is attributed to this early practice. Early cake was made with yeast instead of baking powder and was much more bread-like and sweetened with nuts and fruit. Over centuries, cake evolved to be sweet and iced – especially popular in Victorian times – with the most popular flavor being chocolate.
My birthday, May 31, according to Facebook, is shared by nine other Lawrentians. However, according to anybirthday.com, the most common birthday in the U.S. is Oct. 5, and the least common is May 22. Apparently the holiday season really is full of love.

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