What Were Birthdays Called in Ancient Times?

Birthdays are a special occasion where individuals celebrate the anniversary of their birth. It is a day filled with joy, presents, and cake.

But have you ever wondered what birthdays were called in ancient times? Let’s take a journey back in time to explore the different names given to this special day.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, birthdays were not celebrated individually. Instead, the pharaoh’s coronation day was considered his ‘birth’ as a god-king.

This day was known as Sed festival or Heb Sed, which means “to be rejuvenated”. The festival was held after 30 years of the pharaoh’s reign and then every three years afterward. During this festival, the pharaoh would run around the boundary of Egypt four times to prove his physical and mental fitness to rule.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, birthdays were celebrated for gods and goddesses but not for humans. The Greeks believed that mortals were born into misery and misfortune and that their death was a celebration because it released them from their suffering.

They only celebrated death anniversaries which they called ‘birthdays’. The Greeks also celebrated the birth of Apollo on the seventh day of every month by offering him cakes adorned with candles.

Roman Empire

The Romans were one of the first civilizations to celebrate individual birthdays. They would celebrate children’s birthdays with honey cakes topped with lit candles that represented moonlight, which they believed had magical properties. The tradition continued into adulthood where Roman men would celebrate their 50th birthday with a grand celebration called Jubilee.

Medieval Europe

During medieval Europe times, people did not keep track of their birth dates as there were no official records kept. It wasn’t until the 12th century when Saint’s days were assigned to each person based on their baptismal date. These Saint’s days became the day of celebration for that individual, which was essentially their birthday.


In conclusion, birthdays have been celebrated differently throughout history. From the Sed festival in ancient Egypt to the Jubilee celebrations in the Roman Empire, each civilization had its unique way of celebrating this special day. Today, we celebrate our birthdays with cakes, candles, and presents but it is important to remember and appreciate the different traditions that have shaped this celebration over time.

  • Ancient Egypt: Sed festival or Heb Sed
  • Ancient Greece: Birthdays were not celebrated for humans
  • Roman Empire: Celebrated individual birthdays with honey cakes and Jubilee celebrations for 50th birthday
  • Medieval Europe: Celebrated Saint’s days assigned to each person based on their baptismal date as their birthday.