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BS"D

What about Birthday candles?

According to The Path of the Righteous Gentile [the valid authorized 1987 edition] in the chapter on idolatry: "6. It is forbidden to honor an idol even by offering things to it outside the boundaries that surround the idol. This is considered decorating the idol. (Throwing coins at an idol or even into a pool of water by an idol, such as the oriental gods and demigods commonly seen today, would seem to be in the category of honoring an idol and symbolically ascribing powers to it. Otherwise, why throw the money, which is clearly an act of beseeching a power for returned good fortune?) " and further down, "In truth, any religious food discipline wherein the foods themselves or the combinations of the foods themselves are honored as curatives or wondrous in their health?giving properties may be idolatrous."
Since the custom is to blow out the candles and make a wish, wouldn't this transgress the prohibition of idolatry?

Thanks,
Donny
Yes Donny,

Many of the symbols that we associate with birthdays had their roots hundreds of years ago. There are a few explanations as to why we have birthday cakes. Some say it is because the Greeks used to take cakes to the temple of the goddess of the moon and hunting, Artemis. They took her round cakes to represent the full moon. Worshippers would place honey cakes on the altars of her temple on the sixth day of every month. It was believed that the candles had the power to grant a wish and ensure a happy year. The wish had to remain secret and would come true only if all the candles were blown out with one puff. The candles lost their magical power if the wish was uttered aloud. The Greek people who took their cakes to Artemis placed candles on the cake because it made the cake look as if it was glowing like the moon (Gibbons, 1986).

This pagan source for blowing out birthday candles with one's mouth is mentioned in the teachings of the Ari"zal as brought down by the Ben Ish Chai.

The Germans were known as good candle makers and started to make small candles for their cakes. Some people say that the candles were put on for religious reasons. Some Germans placed a big candle in the center of the cake to symbolize the "light of life" (Corwin, 1986). Others believed that the smoke from fires would take their wishes up to heaven.

Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out the candles on their birthday cake. If they believe that blowing out all the candles in one breath will bring "good luck," and that by this they will get what they are wishing for, then this is attributing power to something other than G-d. (This imagined power is called a "shituf" in Hebrew). Since this is 1) a false idea, 2) just a step removed from an idolatrous idea, and 3) a custom which arose from an idolatrous ceremony, many families omit the "birthday candles" from their birthday celebrations.
For advice on how to make the most of the special occasion of a birthday, by adding in good deeds and good resolutions, see our web page: https://asknoah.org/essay/birthday-celebrations
Visitor Y.O. to the web site Wrote:Do you know of a source describing when Noahides should celebrate their birthday? If according to the solar year, should it be according to the Gregorian or Julian calendar?
The Rabbis who have given me their opinion that Noahides should celebrate their birthdays according to the solar calendar had in mind the normal solar calendar that is widespread use today.
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