The German periodical "Schwäbische Zeitung" (magazine supplement Zeit und Welt) of April 3/4, 1981 on page 4 stated: "The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating - complete with lighted candles - in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year. . . . Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom."
The book The Lore of Birthdays (New York, 1952) by Ralph and Adelin Linton, on pages 8, 18-20 had this to say: "The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or demon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born.
The Romans also subscribed to this idea. . . . This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the guardian angel, the fairy godmother and the patron saint. . . . The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks. . . . Honey cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of [Artemis]. . . . Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes. . . . Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are thus an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortune"
This same book, on page 20, also had this to say about the traditional greeting of 'Happy Birthday': "Birthday greetings and wishes for happiness are an intrinsic part of this holiday. . . . originally the idea was rooted in magic. The working of spells for good and evil is the chief usage of witchcraft. One is especially susceptible to such spells on his birthday, as one's personal spirits are about at the time. . . . Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day."
And Horst Fuhrmann, professor of medieval history at the University of Regensburg, made this comment about birthdays: "The birthday celebration was in honor of one's guardian angel or god, whose altar was decorated with flowers and wreaths; sacrifices were offered to the god of festival, friends offered congratulations and brought gifts." Furthermore, he stated in the German newspaper "Süddeutschen Zeitung": "Great prominence was given to birthday parties held for the emperor, replete with parades, public banquets, circus plays, and the hunting of animals: spectacles disgusting to the [early] Christians."
Then where did birthday celebrations come from? The astonishing answer is from the pagan practice of astrology! Thousands of years ago, when men looked up into the night sky and charted the stars, they invented calendars and calculated the birth dates, to the very hour, of kings, rulers and their successors. These ancient pagan astrologers meticulously examined horoscopes and birthday omens because they believed that the fate of the rich and powerful might affect an entire society. Even to this day, men have been putting their trust in horoscopes instead of God.
In ancient Egypt, the pharaohs ordered businesses to close on their birthdays and gave enormous feasts for hundreds of servants. In ancient Greece, wealthy males joined birthday clubs composed exclusively of men who shared their birth date. Once a month, the club celebrated with a feast. When a member died, he left money to help pay for future parties. In Persia, noblemen observed their birthdays by barbecuing an ox, a camel and a donkey and serving hundreds of small cakes to the celebrants.
In ancient Rome, the emperor gave huge parties in honor of his own birthday, which included parades, circuses, and gladiatorial combat. The celebration of days was so important to the average Roman citizen that the Roman calendar designated a majority of days for some form of celebration—including many birthdays of gods and famous men.
The Roman calendar, with its emphasis on continual celebration, has had great influence on modern society. Consider the following quote about the origin of the Roman calendar:
“Our [Roman] calendar is not Christian in origin. It descends directly from the Egyptians, who originated the 12 month year, 365 day system. A pagan Egyptian scientist, Sosigenes, suggested this plan to the pagan Emperor Julius Caesar, who directed that it go into effect throughout the Roman Empire in 45 B.C. As adopted it indicated its pagan origin by the names of the months—called after Janus, Maia, Juno, etc. The days were not named but numbered on a complicated system involving Ides, Nones, and Calends. It was not until 321 A.D. that the seven-day week feature was added, when the Emperor Constantine (supposedly) adopted Christianity. Oddly enough for his weekdays he chose pagan names which are still used.” (Journal of Calendar Reform, Sept. 1953, p. 128.)
Modern birthday parties and celebrations by children take their form mainly from Germany, where the birthday child received gifts, chose a menu and received a candle-ringed butter or jam cake. The lighted candles for the cake may have originated from the birthday of the Greek moon goddess Artemis. Pagan worshippers honored her every month with moon-shaped honey cakes. Because the moon glows with light, the cakes were decorated with lighted candles.
Saying “happy birthday” to friends and loved ones was society’s superstitious way of protecting them from evil spirits. Birthday thumps, bumps, pinches, etc., were said to bring luck and send away evil spirits. Party snappers, horns and other noisemakers were also intended to scare off bad-luck spirits.
It should now be clear that birthdays are not only unbiblical, they are pagan!
The above proves that birthday parties represent a custom that came from the pagans of former times. It involves belief in demons, evil spirits, magical spells and so forth Therefore, it is not permissible for a Muslim to indulge in such celebrations. The Holy Quran states: "What, do you seek the practice of the Days of Ignorance? Who can be better as regards religious law than Allah, for people who have faith?" (Surah Maa-idah)