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Korean also follow some Western birthday traditions. They celebrate birthdays by blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

1. I don't understand why "the" is used.

According to the context of the writing, nothing is mentioned about "candles" in previous sentences.

2. "~the candles on a birthday cake"

Why "the" is placed only in front of candles, not with birthday cake? (a birthday cake)
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Yubosio
moon7296They celebrate birthdays by blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
We use 'the' here because everybody know what candles are.
Eg. You can't say 'I went to the John's party" But you should say " I went to John's party' because not everyone know who John is.

2- I think put the instead of a in "a birthday cake" because as I said before, a birthday cake is known to everyone so use the instead of a.

Lazzy boy
This is a genreal statement. I would say, with or without "the", it is still correct.
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"The" is used here to show that the candles are grouped with the cake. We use "the" when talking about specific items (not just previously mentioned ones).

"A" is used in front of "birthday cake" because it isn't a specific cake that is being talked about.
moon7296Koreans also follow some Western birthday traditions. They celebrate birthdays by blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. ...
"the" is placed only in front of candles, not with birthday cake ...Let's start with "a birthday cake".

Koreans celebrate birthdays with a birthday cake.

Does each Korean celebrate his birthday with the same birthday cake? -- No. Each person has his own birthday cake. Therefore, there is no single cake that all Koreans use when celebrating their birthdays. Therefore, you cannot point to one cake and say, "That cake there is the cake that Koreans use to celebrate their birthdays." There is nothing in the real world you can point to. Therefore, you can't use "the". The sentence says that each Korean celebrates his birthday with one of thousands of examples of a thing that is called "birthday cake". Compare:

Everyone should have a nice warm coat for winter. (There is no single coat that everyone wears. Each person should have an "example" of a thing that is called "nice warm coat".)

In many American cities the Fourth of July is celebrated with a display of fireworks. (There is no single display of fireworks that all these cities use for their separate celebrations. Each city that celebrates in this way has its own "example" of a thing that is called "display of fireworks".)

Each soldier carried a gun. (There is no single gun that all the soldiers carried together. Each soldier had his own "example" of a thing that is called "gun".)
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Next let's discuss "the candles", but before we do that, note that in the case of "a birthday cake", above, we looked at "birthday cake" from the point of view of the real world. We said "a birthday cake" -- not "the birthday cake" -- because we could not point to a single cake in the real world which could be said to be "the (same) birthday cake" that all Koreans use when celebrating birthdays.

We can take the same point of view for "candles". If we compare from the point of view of the real world, we have to reason the same way for "candles" as we do for "birthday party". In this way, we can say the sentence without the:

They celebrate birthdays by blowing out candles on a birthday cake. (There is no single set of candles that all Koreans use when decorating a birthday cake. Each cake has its own set of candles. The candles we are talking about are an example of a set of things that are called "candles". Therefore, we omit the.)
_____

Now this may seem strange, but we can take a different point of view in which we don't think of the candles in comparison to their existence in the real world. We can think of them in terms of each birthday cake that they are located on. In this case we say that the candles go together with the cake. We refer to a specific set of candles that we can point to, if we choose one of the many cakes we were talking about. Using this point of view, we use the.

They celebrate birthdays by blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. (Once you choose a cake -- any (example of a) cake -- you can talk about those candles -- and only those -- which are on that cake.)

________________

So there are two ways to handle "candles": without the and with the. It depends on how the speaker is thinking of the situation.

CJ
Hi, Jim, nice to see you.

I don't think we say A father of one of my students rang me up last night.

It sounds odd. The student maybe has more than one fathers.
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Again, you really nailed the point I wanted to know!

I don't know how to appreciate your super kind and considerate answer.

If I say like that, I suppose, it sounds as if I already knew the point.

Just because of "the", my intention can go to a really different direction...
norwolfI don't think we say A father of one of my students rang me up last night.
No. We don't. Not usually. But I don't really see your point. the father of ... is quite a different relationship than (the) candles on ..., so I don't think the two are comparable.

Even so, a father of one of ... is not really completely out of the question, though that meaning would probably be conveyed with "One of the fathers of one of my students ...". Please explain further if you still have a question about this.

CJ
Jim, I think you explained that same point here:
We refer to a specific set of candles that we can point to, if we choose one of the many cakes we were talking about. Using this point of view, we usethe.
A specific father that we can point to, related to one of the many students we could be talking about. Same thing, isn't it?
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