Putting candles on a birthday cake is a practice that has been around for decades. It has roots in the tradition of ancient Greeks who would usually burn candles as offerings to the many entities they served.
As far as the ancient Greeks were concerned, putting candles on a cake was a special way to pay tribute to Artemis, the Greek moon goddess. They would bake round cakes to represent the moon and candles would be added to represent the reflected moonlight.
Putting candles on cakes was also a famous tradition in Germany where for religious reasons, people would put a large candle in the center of a cake to symbolize “the light of life.” In the days since then, some scholars believe that more meanings have been attached to the tradition.
Some people may have thought that the smoke from the extinguished candles would carry their heartfelt wishes and prayers to gods who dominated the skies. Others most likely believed that the smoke could help banish evil beings.
In modern times, the tradition persists but may have attracted even more meanings. For instance, some believe that the birthday celebrant must make a silent wish before blowing out the candles. If all the candles die at once, their wish gets granted and the person will enjoy good luck throughout that year.
If the candles don’t all die at once or if the wish is shared with someone else, it will no longer come true.