Birthday Defined: The day of one's birth or the anniversary of that day. In some places the anniversary of one's birth, especially that of a child, is celebrated with a party and the giving of gifts. Do Bible references to birthday celebrations put them in a favorable light? Genesis 40:20-22 & Matthew 14:6-10.
How did early Christians and Jews of Bible times view birthday celebrations? "The notion of a birthday festival was far from the ideas of the Christians of this period in general." [The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries (New York, 1848), Augustus Neander (translated by Henry John Rose), p. 190.] "The later Hebrews looked on the celebration of birthdays as a part of idolatrous worship, a view which would be abundantly confirmed by what they saw of the common observances associated with these days." [The Imperial Bible-Dictionary (London, 1874), edited by Patrick Fairbairn, Vol. I, p. 225.]
What is the origin of popular customs associated with birthday celebrations? "The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. 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." [Schwbische Zeitung, April 3/4, 1981, p. 4.] "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
This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the Guardian Angel, the Fairy Godmother, and the Patron Saint
The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks
Honey cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of [Artemis]
Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes
Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortune
Originally the idea was rooted in magic
Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day."
[The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952), Ralph and Adelin Linton, pp. 8, 18-20.]
I Corinthians 10:31