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.