Birthday Presents? How pagan of you.
This was quite the busy weekend for me seeing as how 2 of my friends had Birthday parties. It also so happens that my Mom is celebrating her birthday next week (she has been turning 25 for the last 14 years but who am I to question that?). All these Birthdays were cause for a whole lot of gift shopping and as I was wandering the aisles of the stores I started wondering where the custom of gift giving originated.
My close companions Google and Wikipedia were (as always) most willing to assist in my musings. An interesting fact that I came upon is that in historic times people believed that on your birthday evil spirits would be attracted to you and so people would come to wish you luck and give you presents to send the evil spirit away (not sure where they went but hey, it’s the thought that counts I suppose). Eventually the well wishers thought it a good idea to have a party whilst wishing away the evil and voila! Because of this sending away of evil spirits business, early Christians did not celebrate their birthdays. They absolutely refused to associate with this horrible pagan tradition. (Let me nor digress further into the numerous pagan traditions currently practiced by the religious masses)
In historically Roman Catholic Countries people did not celebrate their birthday but rather a “name day” which would be on the official day of the particular saint they were named after. Folks then started naming their children for the saint on which day they were born or even for a religious feast. Can you imagine being called Passover, seriously?
There are also many strange birthday traditions around the world such as in Venezuela where people try to push the persons head into the cake when blowing out the candles. In some parts of Canada and America it seems that people punch the person celebrating their Birthday (once for each year) and in Argentina they pull on your earlobes whereas in India again you get spanked on the bottom – again, one smack for each year. There is also the more mainstream singing happy birthday and giving gifts that is practised in modern times. And yes we still give gifts but not to send evil spirits away and what used to be a best wishes day turned into fun birthday parties.
Considering all of these traditions I am sure all of us would rather have presents so let’s stick to that. Pagan suits me well!
Image credit: torbakhopper