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December 12, 2020

The Future of Birthday Cake Candles is Dim

by Anne Paddock

Remember back when we used to eat cake after someone blew all over it?  Man, we were wild….

Have you ever wondered why we put candles on a birthday cake? Many historians believe the Greeks started the tradition to honor the goddess Artemis’ birth on the sixth day of each lunar month.  Another group of people believe the origin of birthday candles came from the ancient belief that fire is associated with power and that evil spirits visit people on their birthday so celebrants surround the honoree and make noise while the burning sticks of paraffin scare the offenders away. Ironically, if anyone blows out the candles on a cake nowadays, the evils of coronavirus are a real possibility.  Which brings me to modern day birthday celebrations:

Nowadays with the pandemic out of control, most people can’t imagine anyone leaning over a birthday cake, making a wish, taking a deep breath, and exhaling directly over a birthday cake. And, for those who blow across the cake two or three times trying to extinguish all the candles…well, that’s akin to double dipping (as in dipping a chip in salsa or guacamole, taking a bite, and then dipping the last part of the uneaten chip in the dip again). Years ago, Jerry Seinfeld did a whole show on double dippers that still makes me laugh today. All of which means blowing out candles will be right up there with double dippers as a social faux pas in the future.

Blowing out candles on a cake will probably become a thing of the past or something we do behind closed doors with only family because we know the spread of the virus comes from airborne particles that spread when we cough, sneeze, talk, or exhale. My guess is that some creative entrepreneur will develop an alternative – maybe a fake candle that lights and extinguishes itself via a remote control – because candles on a birthday cake are part of our culture.

Change is tough and although truth generally wins in the long run, the journey to get there is often bumpy. The first stage of truth is ridicule. There will no doubt be people who think a new recommendation (don’t exhale across a birthday cake from which many people will eat from) is absurd and strange (we see the same reluctance in those who refuse to wear a mask). Some people just can’t imagine not being able to blow candles out on a birthday cake so they laugh it off as ridiculous until others start to point out the danger of continuing this behavior, which leads to the second stage:  opposition. This is when things get ugly.  People worry that this new change is gaining support and is here to stay so they resist because it’s a threat to familiarity. But, given time we get to stage 3 which is accepting the change because the majority of people view the truth as self-evident:  exhaling directly over a birthday cake from which people will eat from is not in the best interest of anyone.

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