(WYTV)– Birthday candles may have roots in a 15th-century German celebration called Kinderfest, a children’s festival filled with dancing, singing, and dessert-eating. Lighting candles atop a large cake was a way to celebrate the local youth and a way to protect their mortal souls.

While it’s common today to blow out the candles immediately, in the 19th century, traditions varied. One German account from 1858 suggests that the birthday boy or girl should let the flame die on its own. Another account from 1884 suggests that the candles should be lit in the morning and allowed to burn until supper.

Regardless of how they were used, birthday candles became increasingly popular in the United States starting around the 1880s, as more German immigrants flocked to the New World. Around this time, Americans began starting their own unique traditions, and it became common to sing hymns or recite original poems around the smoking cake. After each stanza, the birthday child would blow out one candle.

Here’s an example of one such verse from a poem from 1898, which appeared in the journal The Irrigation Age.

“Dimpled hands and dainty feet, sudden laughs and cries,
Sweet “goo-goos” and “Da-da-da’s” dark and wondering eyes,
Just a little baby girl whom loving arms must hold,
Put the little candle out, baby’s one year old.

It wasn’t long before this practice would extend to adult celebrations as well. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the recitation of religious verse and homemade poems inspired a new tradition, one that, like birthday candles, would soon take over the globe: the singing of “The Happy Birthday Song.”