Posts filed under ‘Holidays and Traditions’

Birthdays Were Not Always Celebrations

By Chad Upton | Editor

Although traditions can vary widely, annual birthday celebrations are pretty common around the world.

In the beginning, only Kings and other royalty were thought to be important enough to have birthday celebrations. At the time, birthdays were not celebrations for common people. They believed that evil spirits searched for people on their birthday, so friends and family would gather to protect the birthday person from the evil spirits. Singing songs and using noise makers was thought to scare the spirits away and gifts were given for good luck.

Of course, modern birthdays are much different. One of the highlights is the cake and the tradition of serving birthday cake comes from Ancient Rome. Originally, cakes were much like bread, the only difference being that cakes were sweeter.

With culinary advancements in the 17th century, cakes began to look more like their contemporary counterparts. At the time, they were a privilege of the wealthy and not until the industrial revolution were the materials and tools affordable and widely available enough for commoners to have birthday cakes too.

Although candles originated in China around 200 BC, it was the Europeans who popularized decorative candles. Candles made their way onto birthday cakes around the 18th century in Germany. Many cultures put enough candles on the cake to equal the age of the person, some cultures adding one more for good luck.

Some cultures also celebrate the birthday of a historical leader or religious figure. One of the most popular is Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus. In the United States we also celebrate Presidents Day on the third Monday of February, which honors George Washington’s birthday (February 22, 1732). Although most people celebrate the day they were born, there are some cultures in Europe and Latin America that also celebrate one’s name day. In that case, if you were named after a Saint, you would celebrate on that Saint’s name day (sometimes in addition to your birthday, other times in place of it — depending on the country).

There are many other birthday traditions from around the globe, some are current and others have long passed. In some South American cultures, it was tradition to pull on the earlobes of birthday children, once for each year they have lived. In India, icing from the cake is sometimes rubbed on the face of the birthday person.

In Mexico, a Piñata is a colorful container, often shaped like a star or an animal, that is filled with treats. The birthday person, usually a child, is given a stick to break the piñata or in some countries there are strings to pull open a trap door. Although this is well known, there are many other countries, such as Denmark, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and others who have similar traditions involving clay pots or other containers that are broken to release treasures.

PS – Today, we are celebrating a very special birthday. Exactly one year and 235 secrets ago, I posted the first secret on BrokenSecrets.com — You Can Use Foil in the Microwave.

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Photos: Omer Wzir (cc), Joe Gray (cc)

Sources: BirthdayCelebrations.net, Wikipedia (Birthday, Birthday Cake, Candles, Pinata)

November 19, 2010 at 1:00 am 9 comments

How to be a Halloween Scrooge

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you think about it, Halloween is kind of an odd tradition. Generally, we tell kids not to accept candy from strangers. Then, we encourage them to dress up in weird costumes and go door to door, seeking candy from every stranger within walking distance.

As a kid, Halloween was third on the “getting free stuff scale” right after Christmas and birthdays. As an adult, Halloween is probably first on the “giving away your stuff scale.” I mean, you don’t even know these kids, and even if you did, you can’t tell that you do because they’re in disguise.

So, I don’t blame you if you get upset when somebody’s kids are knocking on your door, expecting you to hand over your food. In fact, there are probably some of you who don’t even want your grown children eating your food.

So, if you want to be a mean old grumpy grump, here are a some ways to be a Halloween scrooge.

Help Yourself Candy Bowl

Put a large empty bowl on your door step. Attach a sign that says, “Please Take Your Own Candy.” This will probably make some kids cry.

Disabled Doorbell

We used to unhook our doorbell on Halloween because our dog would go crazy every time the doorbell was pressed. We still answered the door and gave out candy, but you can use this trick if you don’t want the candy seeking youngsters interrupting your Ugly Betty marathon.

Boo Yourself

In some places, neighbors will “Boo” each other in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Basically, they wait for nightfall and leave a bucket of treats on your doorstep. Then they ring the doorbell and run away. You put a sign in your window to indicate that you’ve been “Boo’d” and you “Boo” two other people. It’s all in good fun, and it’s a lot better than what people used to leave on doorsteps before running away. But, if you see this as doorstep spam or an unprofitable pyramid scheme, then you can just boo your own house and count yourself out early.

Lights Out

In some neighborhoods, unlit house lights tell the goblins that you’re on to their game and you’re not going to give up any free candy.

Do a Trick

If you do a trick, you’ll confuse some kids for sure. Be careful with the older ones or the trick will be on you later.

Fake Candy

My parents were always worried about us getting tampered candy, so they’d have to “inspect” the candy before we could have any. In other words, they would “skim” the loot before it got counted. That actually worked out pretty well, they liked all the stuff I didn’t like anyway.

If you’re really trying to stick it to those candy grabbing ghouls, then you’d save empty candy wrappers throughout the year and just hand out the wrappers. You may also consider this doing a trick.

Jinx

A twist! Here’s when you answer the door and you say “trick or treat.” Of course, that means they will have to give you candy. If their parents are at the curb, they probably won’t stop at your house next year — mission accomplished, scrooge.

If you’re wondering how this dark and twisted holiday started, check out Kaye Nemec’s History of Halloween.

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Photos: PumpkinWayne (cc), Rael B (cc)

October 29, 2010 at 1:00 am 4 comments

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