Saturday, 6 February 2010

Connected by cake

I made two birthday cakes this week. As I made them I wondered about the tradition of birthday cakes. It’s thought that the history of birthday cakes can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who took round or moon shaped honey cakes and bread to the temple of Artemis. Artemis was the goddess of the moon. Candles were placed on the cakes to make them glow like the moon. I thought about this as we turned off the lights and waited for the candles to be blown out; it was pleasant to think that there was a connection between us and the humans of a couple of thousand years ago .

I am aware of wanting to make these sorts of connections for my children. I tell them about things I used to enjoy, things their grandparents used to enjoy and I hope that they will enjoy them too. Invariably though, they aren’t especially interested. Alice had a party today. I had a large bag of prizes and a long list of games to play. Within five minutes of arriving the children were playing Let’s Dance on the wii and nobody wanted to pin a tail on a donkey or sleep like a lion (quietly, apparently). When it was time for the children to go home the prize bag was still full and I wondered if they had really enjoyed themselves. Then I remembered my Dad telling me the story of how he used to buy a bag of sweets with his pocket money and make it last all week. He probably told me the story one day as I was scoffing a whole bag of sweets at once. His story was like a pill, remonstration coated in reminiscence. I found myself doing the same thing this afternoon: when I was your age we used to play games at parties...

The search for connections is likely a symptom of my age; an effort to make the children’s relatives three-dimensional, to give them a back-story, to search for common ground that links us together. It’s quite likely that at some time in the future one of my children, as a grown up, will stand at a birthday party and announce that when grandma was younger she used to play a game where everyone had to sleep like lions. And the observation may well be perceived as remonstration disguised as reminiscence. But when the lights are switched off and small faces are lit like lanterns in the glow of the candles, the children will echo the humans of thousands of years ago in an unintended connection that seems unlikely to ever be broken.

1 comment:

  1. I love the sound of those Greek cakes, I had no idea the tradition was so old. I hope sleeping lions hasn't really gone for good, I always loved that game (and was looking forward hopefully to a time when I might be able to use it to get the boys to be quiet!)