on holidays 2007 jul 17
I too had noticed that the only birthdays mentioned in Scripture is the birthday of Pharaoh in Gen 40:20, and the birthday of Herod in Mat 14:6 and Mar 6:21. The birthdays of rulers were commonly celebrated nationally in the ancient world. I suspect this custom had its origin in that the first rulers were the patriarchs after Noah’s Flood, and since these men lived so much longer than their descendants, they came to be seen as immortal and deified. Subsequent rulers often carried the aura of deity about them, openly as in the case of the pharaohs, or at least the kingship was approved and upheld by the gods.
Birthday celebrations are indeed pagan in origin … every day of the week, and in some cultures, every day of the year was dedicated to a different god. We can still see this today. We call Sunday “Sunday” because it was the day dedicated to the sun god, Monday is “Monday” because it was dedicated to the moon god, and so on. (Tuesday was the war god’s day, Wednesday was Woden’s day, who was supposed to be the father of the gods, Thursday was Thor’s day, Friday was the goddess’ day, and Saturday was Saturn’s day.)
The spirits associated with the god on whose day someone was born, were supposed to watch over that person during his life. On his birthday, he himself laid gifts on the altar of that god, as a way of thanksgiving for care in the year past, and as a plea for blessing in the coming year. His friends and family also celebrated with him, so that his next year would be blessed.
Birthday candles have their origin in that offerings were burned on altars, and the prayers of the worshiper were supposed to ascend to heaven to the gods in the smoke of the flame. In the case of birthday cakes, the flame of the candles sent the smoke upward, which was to carry the wishes of the one celebrating his birthday to the gods. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Make a wish before you blow out the candles!” That is because if the wish was made after the candles were out, or before they were lit, there would be no smoke to carry the wishes up to the gods.
It is interesting that neither Jesus nor His disciples appeared to know when His birthday was, indicating that birthdays were not celebrated in the Hebrew culture:
“Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, …” Luk 3:23
We do still celebrate birthdays in our family. We often do not have cake, since I am allergic to flour (and I used to be the one making the cakes, most of the time), and we usually do not have candles, either. We are in transition with phasing out pagan holidays and phasing in the ones instituted by God. To not celebrate birthdays is lower on my list of priorities than to celebrate Sabbath or other holidays which are clearly commanded.
But if I were a young mother beginning over, with no other family expectations of birthday celebrations, I would prefer to mark the day reminding our children what a gift they are to us, and to reiterate their blessing over them. And perhaps by giving them a gift of books, and something which they will use in the coming year (art supplies if an artist, an instrument if a musician, etc.), since we do not support retailers who exploit Christmas, thus we no longer buy those things for gifts at Christmastime.
on holidays: trumpets 2007 sep 10
on holidays: you do not know the day or hour 2007 sep 12
happy yom teruah! 2007 sep 14
on holidays: the day of atonement 2007 sep 23
on holidays: the day of atonement, part two 2007 sep 23
on holidays: the day of atonement, part three 2007 sep 23
on holidays: tabernacles 2007 sep 29
on holidays: the 8th day of assembly 2007 oct 04
on holidays: is hanukkah a holy day? 2007 oct 30
have a non-commercial christmas 2007 nov 21
on holidays: the feast of tabernacles 2008 oct 13
on holidays: celebrating tabernacles 2008 oct 15