Where did the celebrations of Birthdays start from?
anyone know when in history it become important to celebrate each individuals birthday every year?
what religion or group of people came up with this idea?
Answer by Dano
The magazine supplement to the German newspaper Schwäbische Zeitung recently considered birthday customs, noting that they “have a long history.” The article states: “Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating—complete with lighted candles—in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year. . . . Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom.”
The Bible makes direct reference to only two birthday celebrations, those of Pharaoh of Egypt (18th century B.C.E.) and Herod Antipas (1st century C.E.). These two accounts are similar in that both occasions were marked with great feasting and granting of favors; both are remembered for executions, the hanging of Pharaoh’s chief baker in the first instance, the beheading of John the Baptizer in the latter.—Ge 40:18-22; 41:13; Mt 14:6-11; Mr 6:21-28.
With the introduction of Christianity the viewpoint toward birthday celebrations did not change. Jesus inaugurated a binding Memorial, not of his birth, but of his death, saying: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Lu 22:19) If early Christians did not celebrate or memorialize the birthday of their Savior, much less would they celebrate their own day of birth. Historian Augustus Neander writes: “The notion of a birthday festival was far from the ideas of the Christians of this period.” (The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries, translated by H. J. Rose, 1848, p. 190) “Origen [a writer of the third century C.E.] . . . insists that ‘of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below.’”—The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, Vol. X, p. 709.
Clearly, then, the festive celebration of birthdays does not find its origin in either the Hebrew or the Greek Scriptures. Additionally, M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia (1882, Vol. I, p. 817) says the Jews “regarded birthday celebrations as parts of idolatrous worship . . . , and this probably on account of the idolatrous rites with which they were observed in honor of those who were regarded as the patron gods of the day on which the party was born.”
Of course, early Christians had reasons of their own for not celebrating birthdays. Back then birthdays had strong connections with pagan religion that are less noticeable today. “The custom of commemorating the day of birth is connected . . . in its content, with certain primitive religious principles,” points out the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. What principles?
Spiritism, for one. “The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or daemon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born. The Romans also subscribed to this idea. They called the spirit the genius. This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the guardian angel, the fairy godmother and the patron saint.”—The Lore of Birthdays, Ralph and Adelin Linton.
Another reason for early Christians to avoid birthdays was the connection with astrology. “The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope,” say the Lintons. To early Christians astrology was associated with Eastern religions, Roman Stoicism and the twisted thinking of the Gnostics. Christians wanted no part of that!
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