Jesus' Birthday Cake, A Family Tradition

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The best family food traditions are all about family and tradition and little about food, a lesson hard-learned from my ever-wise sister.

When her now-strapping teenboys were little tikes, she introduced the family to the Christmas Eve tradition of celebrating Jesus’ birthday complete with cake and candles and party hats and a round of the Happy Birthday song.

One year, I went to considerable effort to bake a fancy cake with good chocolate and toasted nuts and artful icing. It was good and all but really, nothing memorable.

[img_assist|fid=2625|thumb=0|alt=Jesus' Birthday Cake]The next year, my sister picked up some gaudy, gooey, sugary, frosting-thick cake from the supermarket bakery late on Christmas Eve.

(Yes. You can tell, right? It’s true. I admit it! I didn’t approve.)

That night, we gathered round the table, carols quiet in the background. The boys lit the candles atop the cake one by one. We joined hands to sing ‘Happy biiiirtttttthday, dear Jeeeeesus’ in loud, clear voices.

After a brief squabble over who’d blow out the candles, we sliced the cake and added big scoops of ice cream.

I took a bite, sure it would be awful.

Then I looked up, seeing with wet eyes the smiles on everyone’s faces, the tree lights reflecting in the windows, and understood with new wisdom the real meaning of family traditions.

It was the best cake ever. I ate every bite.

[cross-posted from Kitchen Parade, my food column]

[photo credit to Mistress of the Dorkness who says that the no-squabble rule is that the youngest one blows out the candles]


My family's not alone in looking for ways to celebrate the season with more faith than finery. The message board outside a church I passed this morning reads, "Don't X Christ out of Christmas".

Miss Tara's Recipe Box shares her family's traditional recipe for Jesus' Birthday Cake, festively red and green.

"I started early in my children's lives to keep Christ in our celebration and to make sure our celebration reflects our faith. We always have a birthday cake for Jesus. On Christmas Eve, we sing Happy Birthday, Jesus! -- and my kids just delight in singing and blowing the candles, making a wish for Him -- a precious moment too is when they'd go in a monologue as if He is part of our round table dinner." ~ Family Comes First

"Where did I go wrong?" asks Michelle when her five-year old insists, "Christmas is about Santa!" ~ Look@OKC

"When I was in my teens ... Both God and Santa were these benevolent old men (in my imagination; also the pictures I’d seen) who I never got to see, but who were looking after me, and keeping track of what I was up to. So, ‘no Santa’ seemed to point suspiciously in the direction of ‘no God’. Of course, I eventually figured out the difference, and all was well in the end." ~ Desmond's Place.

Where does Santa, where does Christ, fit into your family's celebration of the Christmas Season?

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