8

Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.  ~Audrey Hepburn

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, the birthday cake has been an important part of Western European birthday celebrations since the mid-19th century and is common in many Western cultures. Adding birthday candles to the top of the cake actually began in Germany in the 18th century. But the actual beginnings of associating cake with birthdays began back in the days of the Ancient Romans.

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Of course, my own desire to have a cake or at least a homemade baked yumminess for my birthday has very little to do with the Ancient Romans other than there having to do with the start of the tradition.  It has more to do with my own family tradition and the feelings of love and security from my own childhood. We didn't have baked goods in our home on a daily or even weekly or even monthly basis. But I could count on that chocolate cake one time every year.  Mom (my grandmother who raised me)always made my birthday cake (and usually a requested meal).  The cake might have come from a box mix but it was mixed in her mixer with her loving hands and baked in her oven and the frosting was always homemade...full of sugar and love.  It was to me, what made the day special.  There was something about someone (my mom) taking time out of her day to make something delicious just for me to celebrate my day.

Add that to the additional memory of sharing birthdays with PapPap... He got his Poorman's cake and I got my chocolate cake... and it was special blowing out candles together.  [ Wish I had a picture of that to show you....hint hint to my sister if she's reading this....  I REALLY need to learn how to access photos from the family online....I REALLY need a tutor.... wink wink]

There was, however, one year that wasn't going so well that I recall as well.  I wasn't living with Mom at the time.  I lived with my father and step-mother.  I don't recall a lot of the details of that birthday, but I do remember that my father baked my cake.  He's not exactly the type to bake cakes.  And he's not the type of father to do lots of frilly stuff for/with his child.  But he made my cake that year.  And I remember that with great fondness.

So I like my cake.  It's important to me.  And the few birthdays I've had without one have been a little sad for me.  Not that I didn't appreciate what those around did for me - the cards, flowers, dinner out, etc.   But there's something about that cake....

What tradition(s)  do you hold near and dear to you?

Random Thoughts on A Saturday:

  • I also like the traditions of hanging stockings by the fireplace, Making Christmas cookies, buying my children ornaments every year that represents a memory for that year,  putting out cookies for Santa,  and opening Christmas presents in our pajamas!
  • I wish I could read as fast as Spencer Reid....lol...and have his memory!
  • Kristen Lamb's Blog is pretty awesome....really good posts if you are into writing.
  • I love listening to my daughter play piano.....  it's extra soothing now that she's been away at college...  I could just listen to it for hours.
  • I need a good Paleo cake recipe and brownies too!
  • Finding fiction and non-ficiton critique partners shouldn't be so hard...anyone out there want to partner up?

8

With Christmas coming up in a few days, I've read up a bit on Russian Christmas Customs.   Although we ourselves are an Orthodox family and my husband is Russian, we don't necessarily follow all these customs. However, I enjoy reading about them and occasionally take part of an old tradition when it sounds appealing and doable for our family.

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox
Church celebrates its Christmas in accordance with the old Julian calendar  (Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th and several Orthodox families exchange gifts on this day). We have talked many years of doing part of our gift celebration on Russian Christmas but it just never happens.  We do leave our tree up until the day after Russian Christmas though and I always wish my husband a Merry Christmas once again.

We, as most Orthodox in America, celebrate Christmas according to the western calendar on December 25th.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Christmas is the third most important feast (Pascha, or Easter, and Pentecost are the most important).

The 12 days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany are called Christmastide  (traditionally falling on January 6th, Epiphany  marks the revelation of Jesus Christ as God - though of course that manifestation occurred in the womb - and is the day we celebrate the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan).  These holy days have been called the 12 Days of Christmas and are usually celebrated by visiting friends and relatives.

The Holy Supper, apparently, is comparable to a Carpotho-Rusyn and Ukrainian meal and is served on Christmas Eve. A white table-cloth symbolizing Christ's swaddling clothes cover the table.  A white candle symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World adorns the center of the table. There are traditional ethnic foods served including Kutya, a special porridge made of wheat and other grains served with honey and poppy seeds.  The dish symbolizes hope and immortality while the honey represents happiness. Other dishes include: Sauerkraut Soup, Parsley Potatoes and Red Wine.  There is no meat as this meal, though festive in nature, still takes place during the fast.

There is typically two services held in the Orthodox Church at Christmas.  One is a vesper's service held on Christmas Eve while the Liturgy service is held on Christmas morning. The traditional Christmas Greeting"Christ Is Born!" can still be heard exclaimed by Orthodox Christians everywhere and can often be seen on Christmas cards. (It's always written in ours!) The traditional response is "Glorify Him!" We use this greeting in Church and in public throughout the Christmas holidays and for several weeks after it.

Children usually go Christmas Caroling on Christmas carrying an eight pointed star (also a Romanian tradition) and an icon in the center.

On the Sunday after the Nativity (Christmas) a Yolka (Christmas party) is held.

And there is the custom of Babouschka.  Babouschka, according to old tales, was inhospitable and did not offer food or shelter to the Magi as they were traveling and searching for the Christ Child.  Because of this inhospitable behavior, she still wanders the countryside in search of the Child Jesus.  Along the way, as she has learned her lesson, she stops at homes of children and leaves them gifts.

Sources For More Information on Russian Customs:

Russian Crafts

Advantour

The Treasured Traditions and Customs of the Orthodox Churches by Mary Paloumpis Hallick