A birthday cake with many candles on a pink background
Birthday Cake Candles Used To Signify Something Way Different
By Christine Barba
Regardless of how you celebrate your birthday, you probably associate the number of birthday candles on a cake with your age and believe blowing out the candles represents making a wish. However, birthday cake candles used to have a different meaning.
The article "Birthday Cakes: History and Recipes" details a celebration of a German count's birthday, one of the first recorded events to feature birthday candles. One participant described "holes made in the cake according to the years of the person's age, every one having a candle stuck into it, and one in the middle."
According to FOODBEAST, the candle in the middle of the cake, or an extra candle, was meant to signify "the light of life" and indicated great wishes that the person celebrating their birthday would live another year. After the candles were blown out, the smoke that followed represented messages sent into the heavens so that God could receive them.
German tradition also suggested that the smoke from the candles was supposed to get rid of any evil spirits that people believed often came to them on their birthdays. Along with using smoke from the candles as a protective measure to get rid of them, people also joined together and got loud to scare off these evil spirits, which some suggest was the origin of birthday parties.