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Birthdays, well-intentioned traditions and cream cheese

Birthday traditions go better with cream cheese

Today is my dh’s birthday so last night I whipped up his favourite carrot cake recipe and set my finished cake out to cool for the evening so I could get it all frosted before his birthday began. The recipe is one that I have made a thousand times before and it turns out great when you use gluten free flour. As I prepared the batter I started to think about all the birthday traditions that I had grown up with and smiled when I remembered how I tried to bring some of these traditions over to my new family (my husband and me) when we first started out together.

In my childhood family, birthdays weren’t celebrated with a lot of money, but there were certain things that you knew were going to happen when your big day came. I was the middle child in a family of five children, and we were spread out somewhat far in age, so there always seemed to be a bigger sister or brother ready to carry things out if Mom or Dad somehow forgot. I remember well trying to sneak downstairs and get out the door and on the bus before the house remembered that it was my birthday. The first thing one could expect was the inevitable “butter on the nose” trick. Birthday celebrators needed to have a generous glob of butter ceremoniously put on the end of their nose (or worse yet, that hard brick margarine that was popular in the 70s and 80s – it hurt when being smushed into the nose). Because the birthday victim was usually running away from the assailant, sometimes that butter got in your eye (now there’s a good saying, “here’s butter in yer eye – have a happy birthday!”) or sometimes down the side of your neck, or worse, in your hair (and you still had to get on the bus and go to school, just add that grease to an already puberty-inspired oily ‘do).

And let’s not forget the “birthday bumps” or birthday spankings. One swat on the derriere for each year of your life. That’s likely illegal now, and maybe with good cause, as there is nothing that makes a child not want to grow into the double digit years like the fear of double digit birthday bumps.

The final tradition that my family enjoyed that made my hubby’s eyebrows raise a bit is the tradition of putting money in the birthday cake. Our mom would always put change in the cake and you had to chew very slow to avoid choking. Again, through a 2019 lens, likely not the smartest practice, but hey, I’m still here, and it gave the family a chance to practice their first aid choking drills. Unfortunately, I hadn’t introduced this particular tradition to my hubby in our dating years, and the first cake I made for him happened to be for a birthday celebrated while we were in different provinces while he was on a military course. I couriered a cake to him, which he excitedly opened and shared with his friends. Imagine his surprise (and alarm) when he took a big bite and almost swallowed a quarter.

Sadly, as I think back, these traditions didn’t last in my new family, and that’s just a bit sad. I think on the occasional birthday I would sneak into my kids’ rooms and slather their noses with butter and enjoy the yells of “hey mom, come on!” but unless the tradition is embraced with gusto, it dies a natural death. Maybe I’ll make it my ambition to start it up all again with my grandchildren. And as far as my hubby’s birthday goes, the day isn’t over yet.

I posted a picture of my hubby’s birthday cake. I wanted to do a naked cake but it is his preference to have his carrot cake drowning in cream cheese icing. So I offer a compromise – a bit naked on the sides, and party on the top. A reverse mullet if you will, to celebrate the birthday of a 50 something guy who grew up in the 80’s. Happy birthday Tom, and have a great day everyone!

Until next time,

Victoria Sweet

2 thoughts on “Birthdays, well-intentioned traditions and cream cheese”

  1. Lol! Thanks for the memories, Victoria. When I started to read about the money cake, my initial thought was “was my family weird.” But no, we weren’t. Everyone had money cakes for their birthday when I was a kid. I remember friends gettin sick from eating so many pieces to find the coveted dime. Good ol days šŸ˜

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  2. There was no money in birthday cakes at home, but a silver sixpence was steamed into the Christmas pudding. Unfortunately, I don’t recall my ever finding it, and like your birthday traditions, it died a natural death. Even though I have some sixpences in the dresser, I never remember to include one in the cake, and perhaps that’s just as well.

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