As eastindiastory.com turns One today we bring you the history of birthdays, gifts and more… read on and enjoy. Thank you so much for your continued support…
By Somashis Gupta
Papa, there is something different on the eastindiastory.com page today,” Rene barged in with excitement.
“Yes.Your Sid uncle was telling me something about EIS’ birthday,” I repliedwhile reading my newspaper.
“Then, we should give EIS a gift. No?” Rene demanded, standing next to me.
“What gift would you like to give them?” I looked at her, giving up on my reading, knowing there would be little respite after this.
“Umm… Since EIS is all about sharing knowledge, thoughts and ideas, why not give themthe history of birthdays?” Rene suggested. “Brilliant suggestion” I remarked.
“So,” I asked her,“What do you know about history of birthdays?”
“Well Papa, I read somewhere that it all started in Egypt about 3000 years back,” spoke an excited Rene.
“Yes, you are right,” I was surprised that she knew this.“In fact, it was Narmer – the First Pharaoh of Egypt whose coronation was celebrated as a birthday. It was considered as his second birth as God.”It was Rene’s turn to be surprised, “As God?”
“Prior to that, all kings were just rulers but this was the first time that someone was a king as well as a religious leader and was considered God,” I explained.
“So how did this become what we know as birthday today?”she asked curiously.
“Well, if you see the way it all started, it was only the Pharaohs whose coronation was celebrated as a birthday. But as civilization evolved, gradually it took the shape in its current form,” I replied.
“Is it correct that the birthday cake started in Greece?” Rene was a fount of information today.“Yes, great that you know this too,” I was thrilled and she was thrilled at my enthusiasm. “Those were the times when the Greeks used to have an early supper, in fact they ate as soon as the moon could be seen in the sky. Now Artemis was the lunar Goddess of the Greeks as you know.”
I sipped my Makaibari and continued. “The Greeks would offer her moon-shaped cakes and lit a candle to offer their prayers.” Rene being an epicure like me remarked, “Wow, thanks Artemis or else we would have missed out on the tasty part.”
And, just as I was about to tell her to busy herself with something else, she piped up, “Papa, I was wondering who was the bright person who started the greatest thing about birthdays?
“What’s that?” my curiosity got the better of me.
“Gifts, Papa… Gifts.” Rene giggled with emphasis. Ahh!
“Well it was the Romans who started to celebrate birthdays of the common man as we know birthdays these days. They had lavish parties where they would shower the person with gifts,” I shared with her. “Facta non verba,” Rene expressed as she laughed. “Well, just words are not enough, we need gifts. Thank you Caesar, Thank you Nero…”
“But actually it was the Germans who popularised it as we do it today,” I interrupted her thanking and dance-around-the-room session.
“Germans?” her attention was back on me.
“Yes, it was the German bakers who revamped the birthday cake to become the icing-topped-colourful-glory that we cherish these days,” I informed her.
“Wow” Rene reacted wide-eyed.
I continued,“By the 18th century,birthdays were pretty commonplace, both for men and women, all around the world. German birthday parties were called Kinderfeste and very closely resembled birthday parties as we know and love today. Each child would be given a cake with a candle on the top for each year of their life so far, as well as one extra for hope along with loads of gifts.”
“Papa, I have an idea!” Rene announced.“We should bake a cake for East India Story today and celebrate it,” As I smiled at the lovely thought, Rene was off with “Mama, Mama…”in a bid to reach her mother in the other room quickly.
Later, as Rene was enjoying her EIS cake made by her mama, she asked me, “Papa, how did East India Story start?” “That is a story for another time,” I smiled and promised her.
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.