Did Vikings Celebrate Birthdays?
A birthday is a day that only comes once a year and it’s a day that a lot of people look forward to, most especially children. It’s a day of celebration, a day to acknowledge the anniversary of one’s birth. It can be celebrated in different ways and its significance varies from one person to another. Other people from other cultures find it important but for some, it’s just a normal day. But is it something that Vikings celebrated? Keep reading this blog post to find out.
Birthday is a magical day in a human's life. It’s the beginning of life on earth and something that a lot of folks celebrate year after year. However, there were clearly no written documents that can prove that Vikings celebrated it back in the day.
Infant mortality was fairly high at that time so when babies luckily survived their first year, it’s definitely something that their parents were happy and joyful about. The odds of survival and living a certain age at that time wasn’t the best compared to today. Even if there was no evidence about birthdays, there would've been at least a milestone in a person’s life at that time that they could’ve been grateful for. One of them could have probably been this saga custom called “tann-fé”, or the “tooth-wealth”, which is a gift for infants when they got their first ever tooth.
There was no clear proof that something like birthday celebrations ever existed since traditions from Pre-Christian Scandinavian beliefs weren’t documented until later centuries and as I mentioned in my previous blog post; we could still decipher other related information.
There was a word in Old West Norse / Old Icelandic for “birthday”, which happens to be quite similar to English: burðar-dagr. Unfortunately, when it was looked up in the Old Norse Prose, it wasn’t finished. It is said that the most common use for the word could be found in Christian-related texts that refers to the birthdays of John the Baptist, Mother Mary and Jesus Christ but that’s just about it but. However, certain Germanic law codes (varies from code to code) did mention children’s ages in regards to what specific age they were allowed to carry weapons, inherit properties, or be held accountable for particular misconducts and misbehaviors. It is said that twelve years old was a fairly typical age of “manhood” for boys.
There may not be written texts for Viking birthdays but it can be assumed that they would have probably celebrated some of life’s milestones just like what we do today.