Today is the birthday of our colleague in the reading odyssey, Erin McKean.
Please join me in wishing Erin a happy, happy birthday.
For those of you who attended ROAM 3 you had the pleasure of meeting Erin and her mother.
Thanks, Erin for being part of our reading and learning community.
I can’t speak to the validity of what the author below says but it’s a fun read.
The first birthday celebrations in recorded history, around 3000 B.C., were those of the early
pharaohs, kings of Egypt.
Happy birthday, Erin – you join the kings of Egypt in your celebrations today!
Birthdays: 3000 B.C., Egypt
It is customary today to celebrate a living person’s birthday. But if one Western tradition had prevailed, we’d be observing annual postmortem celebrations of the death day, once a more significant event. Many of our birthday customs have switched 180 degrees from what they were in the past. Children’s birthdays were never observed, nor were those of women. And the decorated birthday cake, briefly a Greek tradition, went unbaked for centuries—-though it reappeared to be topped with candles and greeted with a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You”. How did we come by our many birthday customs? In Egypt, and later in Babylonia, dates of birth were recorded and celebrated for male children of royalty. Birthday fetes were unheard of for the lower classes, and for women of almost any rank other than queen; only a king, queen, or high-ranking nobleman even recognized the day he or she was born, let alone commemorated it annually. The first birthday celebrations in recorded history, around 3000 B.C., were those of the early pharaohs, kings of Egypt. The practice began after Menes united the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. Celebrations were elaborate household feasts in which servants, slaves, and freedmen took part; often prisoners were released from the royal jails. two ancient female birthdays area documented. From Plutarach, the 1st century Greek biographer and essayist, we know that Cleopatra IV, the last member of the Ptolemaic Dynastu to rule Egypt, threw an immense birthday celebration for her lover, Mark Anthony, at which the invited guests were themselves lavished with royal gifts. An earlier Egyptian queen, Cleopatra II, who incestuously married her brother Ptolemy and had a son by him, received from her husband one of the most macabre birthday presents in history; the slaughtered and dismembered body of their son. The Greeks adopted the Egyptian idea of birthday celebrations, and from the Persians, renowned among ancient confectioners, they added the custom of a sweet birthday cake as hallmark of the occasion. The writer Philochorus tells us that worshipers of Artemis, goddess of the moon and the hunt, celebrated her birthday on the 6th day of every month by baking a large cake of flour and honey. There is evidence of suggesting that Artemis’s cake might actually have been topped with lighted candles, since candles signified moonlight, the goddess’s earthward radiance. Birthdays of Greek deities were celebrated monthly, each god hailed with twelve fetes a year. At the other extreme, birthdays of mortal women and children were considered too unimportant to observe. But when the birthday of the man of the house arrive, no banquet was deemed too lavish. The Greeks called these festivities for living males Genethlia, and the annual celebrations continued for years after a man’s death, with the postmortem observances known as Genesia.
The Roman added a new twist to birthday celebrations. Before the dawn of Christian era, the Roman senate inaugurated the custom (still practiced today) of making the birthdays of important statement national holidays. In 44 B.C., the senate passed a resolution making the assassinated Caesar’s birthday an annual observance—-highlighted by a public parade, a circus performance, gladiatorial combats, an evening banquet, and a theatrical presentation of a dramatic play. With the rise of Christianity, the tradition of celebrating birthdays ceased altogether. By the 12th century, parish churches throughout Europe were recording the birth dates of women and children, and families were observing the dates with annual celebrations. Around this time, the birthday cake remerged, now topped with candles.