Like most exciting things throughout history, birthday gifts are full of surprises.
Back in the day, folks had no way of marking time other than by relying on the sun and moon. They barely even acknowledged a person’s birth until they noted the moon’s cycles, changing seasons and the repeated patterns of each. The first calendars marked time changes and other noteworthy days, thus creating the ability to track significant days each year—like your great, great Uncle Humphrey’s birthday. Or so he claims.
The Origin of Birthday Gifts
To the ancient Greeks, birthday gifts were given as a way to ward off evil spirits and birthday parties were thrown as a form of protection. People believed that evil spirits were a greater threat when a person’s life changed in any way, including tacking on a year in age. No real surprise, they also used noisemakers to get rid of undesirable spirits—this is where our modern day celebratory noisemakers come from. So the next time you want little Jimmy to back off at your kid’s party, you know what to do.
Things You Didn’t Know About Birthdays
1. Party Like An Egyptian
The crowning of a Pharaoh in ancient Egypt came with a lot of perks—most notably the widely accepted belief that they’d just transformed into a god. This made their coronation “birth” date more notable than their literal date of birth, since, you know, godhood and everything. This is also where wearing birthday crowns came from.
2. When In Rome
The Romans were huge fans of celebrating beginnings, or dies natalis (aka birth days). For them, birthdays were similar to religious cult celebrations. They believed people all had a genius (a tutelary spirit) and they offered sacrifices to that spirit on their birthday. They reasoned that the spirit protected each person for a year and would annually perform a new sacrifice. At this point, birthday parties looked like incense-burning, sacrifice-making, ritual-cake-eating, white-robe-wearing soirées.
3. Light ‘Em Up
The historic custom of lighting candles on birthdays originated from the belief that lighting candles or torches would send a signal or prayer to the gods that would then be answered. Blowing out the candles and making a wish was a symbolic way of sending a secret message to the gods.
4. Let Them Eat (German) Cake
Ever heard of Kinderfeste? It was a celebration for “kinder,” or German children, that incorporated cake and candles. The cakes held the same number of candles as the child’s age, plus one more to symbolize the hope of another year. This familiar birthday staple came out of late 18th-century Germany and is our closest piece of history to a modern birthday party.
Best Birthday Gift Ideas
Neat, huh? While history is awesome, we know you’re really here to get some killer birthday gift ideas, so feast your gift-giving eyes on these:
For the fella who can’t get enough of the classics.
What’s in the box:
- Personalized Hand-Made Whiskey Decanter
- Personalized Heavy Bottom Rocks Glasses (2)
- Ice Sphere Molds (2)
- Slate Coasters (2)
- Whiskey Drinking Journal
- Spiced Peppercorn Peanuts
- Salted Pistachios
- Cranberry Pecans
For the fella who likes it hot.
What’s in the box:
- Carolina Reaper Pepper Puree, 2 oz
- Naga Morich Pepper Puree, 2 oz
- Habanero Pepper Puree, 2 oz
- Pull-Handle Food Processor
- Stainless Steel Funnel
- Chemical Resistant Gloves
- 3 Boston Round Bottles, 8 oz
- Official Man Crates Instruction/Recipe Book
For the fella who just wants to live to see another day.
What’s in the box:
- Elk Ridge Machete
- 12.9″ 3mm Stainless Steel Blade
- Black Double Injection Handle
- Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
- Zombie Flashlight
- First Aid Kit
- Duct Tape
The moral of the story here is that birthday gifts, parties and all their trappings were a thing long before they were a thing—and there is literally no excuse to not party. Immediately.
You bring the gifts, we’ll bring the white robes. Just kidding. PAR-TAY!