About birthday cakes

A birthday cake Photo by CJ Sorg/CC, Flickr

A birthday cake
Photo by CJ Sorg/CC, Flickr

Adapted from cbc.ca by Nila Gopaul
Level 3

Birthday cakes are delicious, say children.
They are sweet and rich.
Why do we celebrate birthdays
with cake?
Why do we put candles on birthday cakes?
And why do we sing over these cakes?

During the 8th century,
the people in Rome, Italy,
celebrated birthdays with cake.
Cakes were round.
They were made of wheat flour,
grated cheese and olive oil.
And they were sweetened with honey.

In the 1400s, bakeries in Germany began
selling birthday cakes
made from sweetened dough.

In the 17th century, bakeries made
birthday cakes with many layers.
Cakes had icing and decorations.
These ingredients were expensive.
Only very rich people
could buy these cakes.

In the early 1800s, baking ingredients
became less expensive.
Some people started making birthday cakes at home.

Candles on cake
The ancient Greeks started the tradition
of putting candles on cakes.
The Greeks offered moon-shaped cakes
to Artemis, the goddess of the moon.
The lit candles symbolized the moon’s glowing light.

Why do people blow out the candles?
Long ago, many cultures believed
“smoke carried your thoughts and prayers
to the heavens”.

Candles on birthday cake
Today, the candles on the cake
symbolize the age of a person.
For example, three candles
means the boy or girl is now three years old.
It is also tradition for the birthday girl or boy
to blow out the candles on the birthday cake
and make a wish.
If the birthday boy or girl can blow out
all the candles on the cake,
his or her wish will come true.

The song
The “Happy Birthday to You” song
was written by two sisters in 1893.
The girls, Mildred and Patty Hill,
were from Kentucky, U.S.
The original song was “Good Morning to All”.

“Good Morning to All” had the same tune
as the birthday song.
It just had different words:
“Good morning to you / Good morning to you /
Good morning, dear children / Good morning to all.”
Schools throughout Kentucky began singing the song.

Around 1910, the words changed.
The song focused on birthdays.
The song became popular across the U.S.

Traditional lyrics
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Dear (name)
Happy Birthday to You.

From good friends and true,
From old friends and new,
May good luck go with you,
And happiness too.

In 1935, a piano arrangement
of the melody of was copyrighted.
The Summy Company owned the song.

In 1988, Warner Music Group
bought the song for about $25 million.
If you wanted to use
“Happy Birthday to You”
in a movie for example, you had to pay.
Warner gets about $2 million
each year in fees.

In 2015, a court in the U.S.
is deciding if the birthday song is in the public domain.
Public domain means
the song belongs to the public.
People can use the song any time
and any where, for free.

In September 2015,
a court ruled
the song is free for all
to use.

Thousands of people
who had to pay for the Happy Birthday son
may get their money back.