Certain traditions have been with western civilization for so long, we tend to simply take them for granted. For example, the birthday cake. While birthdays are something that you celebrate, who thought of putting burning candles on them and then asking the birthday boy or girl to blow them out?
Birthday cakes actually date back to the middle ages in Germany, but did not become commonplace there until the 18th century. They eventually made their way to this side of the pond and were adopted into our culture.
The history of birthday candles is not quite as clear cut. Some believe the tradition originated in ancient Greece as a way to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. Others also credit Germany with this development as well, stating that it was a way to depict the light of life.
The reason you blow out the candles apparently derives from the common belief that smoke acts as a vehicle to carry your prayers to heaven. Of course, people make a wish rather than pray nowadays, but the intent is pretty much the same.
The earliest birthday cakes were rather bland affairs that did not even include icing. As the years passed, they became sweeter and more elaborate, with multiple designs and flavors.
In fact, there are now so many options, it can be really tough to decide which one to pick. Sometimes people choose cakes that match a birthday party theme, like superheroes or princesses. In other cases, the style and flavor might be selected simply because it is the one likely to find the most favor with guests.
Whatever style you choose, make it the centerpiece of the celebration and be sure to offer a generous slice to everyone attending! The guest of honor is traditionally the one who cuts the cake.