Why We Give and Receive Birthday Presents4 min read

pile of birthday presents and streamers
Birthday cards and birthday presents are a long-standing cultural tradition but why? We were wondering about this ourselves and we started to investigate when, where and how the presentation of gifts on a birthday came from.

When did it start?

Roman Feast

There can be no avoiding the fact that giving presents on a birthday is an old tradition. Ancient in fact, going back prior to the time of the Romans who were throwing lavish parties and giving presents for birthdays as an already established tradition over 2000 years ago. However, for many of the intervening years birthday celebrations and gifts were the preserve of the nobility while many common folk celebrated their Name Day (related to the Saint they were named after). As for birthday celebrations themselves, they are even older starting around the time of the Ancient Egyptians around 5,000 years ago!

Why did it start?

Black and white birthday

The consensus seems to be that giving presents and gathering together on a birthday helped to ward off evil spirits that were especially attracted to people on their birthday. It was believed that these spirits threatened to harm the birthday boy or girl during their special day. The gifts were mainly tools to ensure prosperity and safety over the coming year including presents we still give today like money, clothes, and food. In many ways, things today haven’t changed all that much although the spiritual element seems to have been lost to the sands of time.

Why do we give people cakes on their birthday?

Birthday cake with candles

Birthday cakes are a much more recent tradition, starting to be given only about 200 years ago. Their inception was assisted greatly by the advent of the Industrial Revolution which made it easier for sweet rich cakes available to the masses (having been the sole preserve of the richest members of society before that). The first birthday cakes were given in Germany for Kinderfests (children’s birthday parties) and it proved universally popular and spread. An interesting point to note is that lighting and blowing out the candles on a birthday is actually far older than the cake itself. The Ancient Greeks used to place lit candles on specially made cakes to honour the moon god Artemis.

What are some of the reasons that people give birthday presents today?

Surprise gift

There are numerous reasons for why we continue this custom today. Tradition is probably one of the most important causes, although there is a certain amount of obligation involved due to family ties, friendship or even just because someone got you a present last year. Of course, it is also done today to mark milestone ages especially for young men and women who are entering adulthood or coming of age. Furthermore, we choose special gifts today to show affection and to give special attention to someone we love the most. Ultimately though, making other people happy normally makes you happy and that’s a good enough reason on its own.

What should you give?

Mystery gift question mark

Of course, that’s totally up to you. There are numerous factors to consider when you’re planning a birthday surprise. Budget, logistics and whether it suits the recipient are obviously the three most important things to consider. Remember also that a gift that is too lavish or ostentatious could make the person receiving it feel uncomfortable as they may feel obliged but may not be able to easily return the generosity when it comes to buying you a gift. Additionally, though it may seem obvious to say, choose something that you know your loved one would enjoy. There’s no joy in receiving a pointless gift that you’re never going to use, nor is there in giving it.

Difficult as it may be to believe, giving your loved ones a birthday present is a much richer tradition than you could have possibly realised. All the more reason to choose your gifts carefully, as no matter the age it’s the thought that counts the most.

Are you in the process of choosing a gift for a special someone’s birthday? At FloraQueen we have all sorts of surprises in our flower and gift catalogues that will delight and create the perfect birthday treat. With international delivery available on our orders you can wish your lucky recipient a happy birthday from almost anywhere in the world.

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