Birthdays are one of our very oldest customs. We can suppose that prehistoric mothers and fathers noticed that their children grew up in stages. One day, the baby could only gurgle; then the next, he might repeat a word he heard his parents say.
One day, a baby could only crawl; then the next, he stood up and walked. All of these changes probably seemed mysterious and frightening to prehistoric parents. And they feared anything that was new or different.
To be certain that their children continued growing safely, these parents held ceremonies to scare off evil spirits who could harm their offspring. They offered gifts to the spirits so their children would be protected.
They also gave gifts to their children to encourage them to grow. At these ceremonies, the children played games and held contests to show how strong and skillful they were becoming with each new year.
The custom of testing a child’s strength at his birthday celebration continues today. The big breath needed to blow out the candles on a birthday cake is really a test of strength, a way for modern people to carry on an old custom!