Birthday is the name given to the day that some people in many cultures celebrate the anniversary of the day they were born. It is often marked by a birthday party and/or friends when gifts are given to the person celebrating the birthday. It is also customary to treat people specially on their birthday, either generally acceding to their wishes, or subjecting them to a rite of transition.
It is thought the large-scale celebration of birthdays in Europe began with the cult of Mithras, which originated in Persia but was spread by soldiers throughout the Roman Empire. Such celebrations were uncommon previously so practices from other contexts such as the Saturnalia were adapted for birthdays. Because many Roman soldiers took to Mithraism, it had a wide distribution and influence throughout the empire until it was supplanted by Christianity. The Jewish perspective on birthday celebrations is disputed by various rabbis.
The celebration of birthdays is not universal. Some people prefer name day celebrations, and Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate either, considering their origins to be pagan festivals along with Christmas and Easter. Some adults loathe celebrating it as it reminds them that they are getting progressively older.
The birthday cake is traditionally highly decorated, and typically covered with lit candles when presented, the number of candles signifying the age of the celebrant. The person whose birthday it is makes a silent wish and then blows out the candles. If done in one breath, the wish is supposed to come true (but only if the person keeps the wish to himself or herself). It is also common for the "birthday boy" or "birthday girl" to cut the initial piece of the cake as a newlywed couple might with a wedding cake. If the knife touches the bottom, or when withdrawn from the cake comes out with pieces of cake adhering to it, the birthday boy or girl may have to kiss the nearest boy or girl of the opposite sex.
Birthday cakes date back as far as the Middle Ages when the English would conceal symbolic items such as gold coins, rings and thimbles inside their cakes. Each item was associated with a prediction. For example, a person finding a gold coin in a birthday cake would supposedly become wealthy; a person discovering a thimble would never marry. COPIED FROM WIKEPEDIA.ORG