Gift giving on birthdays dates all the way back to when people believed that good and evil fairies had power over people’s fate. That was about last Thursday, right?
According to Happy Birthdays Round the World, there used to be a belief that the date of someone’s birth was fraught with danger as it was a day of change which would make someone all the more susceptible to fairy misdeeds.
To fend off this threat, people would invite family and friends to come and protect the birthday person. Good fate was further guaranteed by giving gifts. In fact, Johnson (1963) tells us, the earlier the gifts and good tidings were offered the better chances the birthday person had of getting through the day of change safely.
Perhaps this is why, even today in Mexico, the birthday starts out with a rendition of Las Mañanitas.
I’ll tell you one thing — I would not be too thrilled to wake up to a mariachi band. A big part of birthday joy for me is the opportunity to sleep-in. I’ll take the help warding off evil fairies though…gifts welcome!