The tradition of putting candles on a birthday cake is said to have roots in Ancient Greek and German cultures. In Greece, round cakes were made to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon, with candles added to symbolize the moon’s glow — the Greeks believed that the candles’ smoke carried their prayers to the moon. In German tradition, the ceremony of Kinderfest celebrated the birthdays of young children, and around that time cakes began to take on a sweeter consistency and feature layers. In some stories, Germans are credited for placing candles on the cakes, saying that it represented "the light of life."
Over time, cakes became popular for their taste and design, spawning the full-blown industry that they are today. And while every ceremonial gathering often features a cake, birthdays are the only ones that keep the tradition of the candle. Although it may just be superstition that a wish made when blowing out our candles will come true, we think it’s a tradition we want to keep around for a very long time.
Birthday cakes nowadays have undergone serious development and growth. Cake aficionados make their careers solely on the production of these pieces of art. And while the art of the birthday cake is a feat to master, with questions of batter, icing, layers, flavors, shape, and more, we’d argue that the finishing touch always comes with the candle. And though most deem this an afterthought, the candles you use to top your ingeniously crafted creation are testaments to your ability to complete the package, and to complete the look.
And although Australia has attempted to thwart the age-old tradition of blowing out the candles for health reasons — "to prevent the spread of germs," according to National Health and Medical Research Council via the Australian Daily Telegraph, except for in the case of an individual cupcake and candle for the blower only — we are still candle-heavy in this neck of the woods and are highlighting these little birthday toppers while we still can.
So in honor of the underappreciated wish-carrier, we’ve rounded up 22 of our favorite, and most desirable, candles out there. With that, dear friends, happy birthday(s), and may all of your wishes come true.
Tyler Sullivan is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @atylersullivan