Since When Did We ‘Birthday’?

Sunday was my dad’s 65th birthday.

(Happy birthday dad! I love you so much!)

It got me to wondering more about the meaning behind the ‘birthday’.

How far back does it go?

Who decided we should celebrate with gifts?

Why do we honour ourselves on only one day of the year?

It seems to me that this tradition has been around for a really long time but in my experience with genealogy research, I discovered that birthdays were not always celebrated nor were they recorded, depending on the country and culture.

My mom’s side goes back to 1745 Netherlands, to the mother of my illegitimate 5th-G-Grandfather, whose father’s name was mentioned but without any other information to trace his lineage. We cannot find any other information before his baptismal entry in the church book in 1770.

(A special thank you to Irma Lommen-Salden of Limburg Immigrant Page for this look up.)

According to this website The Bible mentions only three birthday celebrations, all of which ended with death and of which God was not pleased.
Gen. 40:1-23; Matt. 14:3-11 and Job 1:4
There are no birth dates mentioned of any of the righteous men The Bible tells stories of nor of His servants.

There is only lineage written containing names without specific dates.

So I did a search on the genealogy of God and found this gorgeous poster of The Adam and Eve Family Tree Wall Chart and The Genealogy of Christ, 1611 King James Bible Illustrations all of which contain no specific ‘birthday’ dates either.

Further searching brought me to this article that shares Why You Get To Celebrate Your Birthday Every Year.

I learned that birthdays started with the Egyptians’ celebration of pharoahs crowned as ‘birthed’ into god’s and moved into the celebration of the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by Greeks.

Eventually, more famous male citizens were celebrated and not until the 12th century were women celebrated.

Christians believed birthdays to be a pagan ritual.

Births pre-1837 were recorded by churches inconsistently and are not always retrievable as originals were lost or destroyed due to weather and war.

Many cultures simply didn’t record the birth and some only recorded the baptism and christenings unless they were considered illegitimate in which case left unrecorded or untracable.

This makes genealogy research especially interesting and slightly more difficult.

One must consider also, the history of the calendar and how it did not always exist the way we understand it today.

Here are a few other facts you probably didn’t know about birthday traditions in history.

So it seems the ‘birthday’ we celebrate today is a combination of many cultures in history emerging in time from a worship-celebration of god’s to one of gifts and birthday cake for all to take pleasure in.

What are your birthday traditions?
Do you celebrate? If so, how? If not, why?

I’d love to hear your stories.


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