Bollywood Birthday Bummers


In the birthday news updates I receive daily, there were recently two different Indian film superstars waxing unenthusiastic about birthdays.

Rehka, who turned 62 on October 10, doesn’t celebrate life on Diwali, Eid, Christmas or birthdays. The actress [pictured above] told Bollywood News, “For me every single day is a blessing and a boon. And I want to squeeze every drop of life out of every single day.”

Me, I squeeze extra life out of every single birthday.

However, I agree with her other thoughts on birthdays: “If anything birthdays should be a reminder that there’s so much more in life to explore, and so much magic waiting to happen. I’d rather spend each day of my life trying to correct the mistakes and improving the quality of my existence rather than cutting a cake, and whooping it up.”

Also, in the counter-cake-cutting camp is Amitabh Bachchan. The Bollywood megastar turned 74 telling India TV how he really feels about cake cutting. The station translated his remarks as:

“I have asked to stop the tradition of cake cutting because I do not know why a cake is bought. Why a candle is lit? And after lighting it up, why is it blown off. Then comes a big knife!…After all the ‘theatrics’ another trend is followed…cake is smeared all over the face.”

OK, I see the not wanting cake smeared on your face. Especially at 74 when you wear glasses and have fine facial hair! Yet, his questions about why candle blowing have been answered already in this blog — and the ceremony of smashing a cake at age one has been addressed too.

I’d argue the cake cutting and whooping it up these two stars deride is a lovely tradition. Some traditions are celebrated for you and for others too. After all, even my co-workers who are currently on a sugar fast saved some of my office birthday cake for later. Cake cutting is a tradition that brings people together in song and the excitement of wishing someone well. Even despite the opinions of a few famous Bollywood stars.



Bad News about Birthday Candles

birthday cake

Photo credit: r.nial.bradshaw via / CC BY

I thought it was pretty cool when I learned that the whole blowing out candles tradition dates back centuries. Many ancient cultures thought the smoke carried their good wishes up to the heavens.

Mental Floss traces the tradition to ancient Greece where people used to take cakes to the temple of Artemis. The lit candles were reminiscent of the moon, a popular symbol associated with the goddess of the hunt.

That site points also to Germans in 1746 putting candles in a cake to signify each year of the person’s age and the possible symbolism of a candle as the “light of the life” of a young child feted during Kinderfest.

These are all interesting ideas, right?

Then along comes Bustle with a report of a new study that pretty much busts the enjoyment of birthday candles forever more. It’s not as if the findings are surprising. Only did science really need to weigh in on this one? This study had to be sponsored by someone who hates birthday cake.

“One of our oldest celebrations is one of the yuckiest, scientists and germaphobes explain,” spoilsport Lifestyle reporter Kaitlyn Wylde writes.

She goes on to describe how gross the tradition actually is, and how it’s even more disgusting when kids are blowing out the candles, then introduces the actual science from Clemson University. I’m not going to repeat it here. It’s gross, and I wouldn’t do that to you.

Instead I will share my disappointment that this study originated at Clemson, my husband’s alma mater, and the school that prompts my son to cheer license plates and bumper stickers as we drive. I am even more devastated a school I am supposed to love by association has spoiled this aspect of birthdays for me.

Sure, there are alternatives to the sucking in a breath and letting out a gusting wish over top of the cake: Have the birthday person blow out a candle or candles on their own cupcake, a pre-cut slice, or personal small cake (a la the one year old’s smash cake). Or have the celebrant use a handheld fan, a folded paper fan, or an old school candle-snuffer. Recently, I also posted alternative birthday cake options — although I intended for those to include candles still.

Me? I’d rather take a cake and smash it in the face of the scientists who researched and thus ruined this age-old tradition. I can make it a purple and orange cake, though, just to make the punishment a little more Tigers-style.