British Birthday Traditions and Fun Birthday Facts - The British Hamper Company

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British Birthday Traditions and Fun Birthday Facts

15 Sep 2021

Edited 29/06/23


Across the world different cultures have their own traditions when it comes to birthdays.

Here in the UK most of us enjoy celebrating birthdays each year. We particularly enjoy the milestone birthdays – the 1st, 18th, 21st and thereafter all birthdays with a zero at the end! 

How we love those great British birthday traditions – cards, gifts, cakes, and parties!

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Where did our British birthday traditions come from?









The tradition of the birthday cake

It is thought that the first birthday cakes were made in the 15th century in Germany for children’s’ birthdays, the event being called Kinderfest. Children received a cake and good wishes every year but no gifts.

In the 17th century cakes became more elaborate, rather like today’s, with layers, icing and decorations.  However, these were only available to the wealthy as sugar was expensive.

After the Industrial Revolution cakes became more accessible to the lower classes and they have since become part of birthday celebrations in W. Europe.










The tradition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’… and the controversy!

Did you know that this was originally composed in 1893 by a teacher from Kentucky, USA?  Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Jane Hill, a pianist and composer, had been creating simple melodies for children to learn easily. The original lyrics were:

"Good morning to you,

Good morning to you,

Good morning, dear children,

Good morning to all."

Then in 1912 it suddenly appeared with the birthday lyrics as we know them, in a piano manufacturer’s songbook. After that it appeared in several others and then in a Broadway musical in 1931.

The Hill family took legal action and in 1935 Mildred and Patty were finally credited as the authors, giving them copyright.

However, it didn’t end there!  

For many years legal battles have raged over the Hill sisters’ ownership. Until 2016, when the song was put into the public domain, you couldn’t sing the song in a film without paying a royalty.

The sisters were honoured posthumously at the 1996 Songwriters Hall of Fame Award.

Who knew that one of the most popular and happy songs had caused so much trouble?

The tradition of birthday cards and interesting birthday card facts

The first birthday cards in Britain appeared just after the first Christmas cards were produced, in the mid-19th century.

Us Brits LOVE a birthday card and you’ll probably be surprised to hear very few countries have outlets dedicated to selling them and even fewer display them proudly like we do!


So did you know…….

  • An estimated £1.5b is spent on card every year with the average person buying 33 cards within that period?
  • More greeting cards are purchased in the UK than any other country!
  • 58% of all greetings cards are birthday cards.
  • 85% of greetings card purchases are made by women.
  • Royal Mail conducted a scientific study in 2013 which found that people have a more positive emotional reaction to traditional cards than over social media or texts.

A few more interesting birthday facts

  • Every day worldwide around 385,000 babies are born. Luckily, we have a delightful range of baby hampers to help celebrate all those bundles of joy!
  • On an average day nearly 177,000 people in the UK will be celebrating their birthdays.
  • According to ONS there is a peak of births in late September.
  • The most popular birthday is 26th
  • December 25th and 26th are the least popular birthdays.
  • Until the Registration Act of 1836, dates of birth were not routinely recorded in the UK, though parish records usually listed baptismal dates.

Seeing as September has a glut of birthdays over here, why not look at our range of birthday hampers.


The tradition of the birthday cake… or lack of!

Not all countries celebrate with cake. Take a look at these different traditions:

  • Australia loves ‘fairy bread’ for birthdays. It’s a buttered bread sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
  • South Korea celebrates with a hearty seaweed soup for breakfast.
  • Russia enjoys a homemade pie with a personalised message carved into the dough on top. It can be sweet or savoury.
  • Netherlands tucks into ‘taarties’ which are fruit tarts topped with whipped cream. Pancakes too on some special birthdays.
  • Sweden loves a ‘princess’ cake. A traditional Swedish layer cake filled with marzipan and topped with green fondant and sprinkled sugar.
  • Ghana For breakfast ‘oto’ is served. It’s a mash made of Ghanian yam and eggs and fried in an onion-infused palm oil.

And seeing as we’re posting this article on the 16th September, here are a few famous people born today!

BB King (d. 2015)
David Copperfield
Mickey Rourke
Lauren Bacall (d. 2014)
Nick Jonas
Flo Rida
Henry V of England (d. 1422)
Heinrich Bach (d. 1692)
Katie Melua

Other interesting events that happened on the 16th September

  • 16th September is the UN International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
  • In 1908 the General Motor Company was founded.
  • In 1620 English colonists aboard the Mayflower set sail for America.
  • In 1895 Dr David Livingstone discovered Lake Nyasa (now Lake Malawi) in Central Africa.
  • In 1945 World War two Japanese troops in Hong Kong surrendered.



And lastly, why does the King have two birthdays?

The King’s real birthday is November 14th but he also has an official one, usually on the 2nd Saturday of June.

It all started in 1748 with King George the 2nd. He was born in gloomy November but wanted to combine his birthday with the military celebration of the Trooping of the Colour which was done in the better weather months and so he had two birthdays.

Edward the 8th, also a November birthday, standardized the June Trooping of the Colour.


Now you're fully in the know about British brithday traditions, why check out our range of birthday hampers so you can celebrate in stlye!