Have you noticed just how large the card section at your local grocery store has become? Did you know that there are entire businesses devoted to the selling of cards? One of the biggest occasions is someone’s birthday, and the sheer volume of available cards leaves many a would-be customer somewhat breathless in the attempt to score just the right card for the occasion. The gambit of birthday cards runs from the cute and funny, to the raunchy and oblique. Yet, have you ever wondered just where this custom originated?
It is said that birthday celebrations did not take place until people found ways of recording time. Obviously, this makes a lot of sense and if we consider that in those days Paganism was still the recognized religion of most, the fears of evil spirits dominated the thought and feelings of people. It was feared that spirits were on the attack and a person would be most vulnerable at the exact moment of the anniversary of their birth. Thus, elaborate rituals were conceived that sought to protect someone from an onslaught of negative energy. One of the most important components in the fight against this evil force was the counteraction with good energy, which caused friends and relatives to come out in droves and bring well wishes to the birthday celebrant. Wishes for happiness, a long life, health, prosperity, perhaps the finding of a spouse or birth of a child, and any other positive wish were thought to vanquish the evil spirits that lurked around the person on that date.
When you look at today’s variety of birthday cards, you can easily discern that very little with respect to well wishes has changed. Each card contains a host of well wishes, some in a joking some in a religious vein, but always with happy thoughts and words of encouragement following. It is thought that England was the birthplace of the modern birthday card. Originally only the rich were able to afford to commission and purchase these elaborately manufactured cards, but very soon the idea caught on and almost everyone was able to afford to purchase cards. Other decided to make their own cards, which is a trend that is gaining new popularity these days with the advent of rubber stamps. Children love to make cards by hand, and their eagerness to apply stickers, draw hearts, and scribble their own well-wishes is superseded only by the recipients’ eagerness to receive these little treasures.