Do you know what I believe to be one of life’s greatest pleasures? Birthday cake! I don’t care if it comes from the supermarket, or a fancy bakery, or if it’s homemade (my favorite, always), it’s all good and it’s all worthy of being eaten.
Why? Because it’s a tangible way of celebrating someone on a special day, and it’s a vital part of a milestone celebration. There’s a reason why the party frivolity comes to a halt and everyone gathers around to watch the candles get blown out and serenade the person of honor. There’s a reason why there’s a whole cake cutting ceremony at a wedding. And there’s a reason why there are at least a dozen shows on television expressly geared toward showcasing the art of cake decorating.
The reason is, because it’s important. We may not know why it’s important, it just is.
I attended a nutrition workshop many years ago where the leader spent a good 45 minutes extolling the merits of a vegetarian-leaning-toward-vegan lifestyle. She spoke vehemently about the evils of sugar and salt in the American diet and gave us tips about how to utilize natural spices and the healing virtues of many of them. Then, right toward the end, she said something that struck me then, and that has stayed with me to this day. She said:
“No matter what kind of diet you’re on, when it’s your child’s birthday, EAT THE BIRTHDAY CAKE!”
I was stunned. Here she was, telling all of us what NOT to eat, and pretty much every one of those things (sugar, fat, white flour) are the essential ingredients in a birthday cake. She went on to explain:
“No matter what kind of diet you’re following, a slice of birthday cake one or two times a year IS NOT GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE ONE WAY OR AN OTHER.” But what WILL make a difference is what you’re communicating to your child in that moment.
In her opinion, if you choose to not eat the birthday cake at your child’s birthday party, you are saying to him her, loudly and clearly, “my ‘stuff’ is more important than your ‘stuff.’” My strict adherence to making sure I look a certain way and monitoring everything I put into my mouth is more important than sharing in the joy of your celebration. And while most kids won’t notice if you ARE eating birthday cake their birthday party, they will almost most definitely notice if you ARE NOT. Interesting food for thought, no?
All puns aside, I believe what she said is 100% true. I also believe that part of celebrating with other people includes partaking of the customary food that is offered and shared. And in those special moments of joy and laudation, I think we do ourselves a disservice by not allowing ourselves to truly immerse ourselves in the happiness and exaltation of a sacred bit of time and space that will never happen again. Your child only has one birthday per year and each celebration is ancient history by the time the next one rolls around. The same goes for other family members and friends whose parties you will hopefully be lucky enough to be invited to and to attend.
So in order for us to make the conscious choice to really choose happiness in our lives, I think that one way is to eat the birthday cake, whenever we get the chance. Even if it’s just a bite or two. Because it reminds us that life is to be celebrated as often as possible, and that freely taking part in those celebrations can be uplifting and joyous for everyone in the room.