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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Merely for my own curiousity - a poll

My own birthday is in November, so this is just in the spirit of inquiry. I just want to know who else has the candle custom I have. (For the record, we always did n+1)

Poll #1365896 Birthday Candles

How many candles on a child's birthday cake?

n (n=number of birthday)
number shaped candles
other (in comments)

What was your chihldhood religious background?

More than one
Other (in comments and I apologize for not listing it.)

Where are you from? (No further back than grandparents, please.)

North East US
South East US
Midwest US
Northern tier US
South West US
North West US
Europe (specify in comments)
Asia (specify in comments)
Africa (specify in comments)
Mixed background


Ticky loves birthdays
Ticky doesn't do birthdays but loves cake
Ticky does birthdays but not cake.
Ticky doesn't do candles anymore.


Ticky reschedules her birthday for her convenience. And I was raised High Anglican, which is what happens when your Irish Catholic father marries your Episcopalian mother.

Works for me. I do that, too.

I'm not into holidays, so Ming and I reschedule everything for our convenience. We're finally having Valentine's day next week. And we have at least 3 different anniversaries to choose from as well.

Why would anyone put more candles than years on a birthday cake?

One for good luck.

We said, "One to grow on."

Me, too. For my daughter, I usually make the "one to grow on" a different color (I try not to buy things from China, so when I find made-in-USA candles, I get as many boxes as budget will allow.).

When I make birthday cake for a grown-up, I just do a token candle, unless it's a milestone birthday and we're doing a snarky "over the hill" type celebration, then I squeeze all the candles (plus one!) on. One good thing about non-Chinese candles, they're no-where near as smokey.

Just so you know, my birthday customs haven't changed as my religion did. (From celebrating Dad's holidays too to not doing so.)

Once you are too old to fit the candles on the cake well, we tend to do, say, a group of eight, with a group of 9 next to it, and one for good luck in the middle. (Grandma turned 89 this year.)

I like that one.

I do fat candles for the tens place & skinny ones for the ones place.

Cool! but how do you do the one to grow on?

That's the domain of religion, not science. :)

Tickey does cake and sort of likes birthdays. Likes the celebration but not keeping track of the number.

My mother's side was Methodist and we went to Sunday School for a few years and then just stopped bothering.

My other grandparents were Southern California, but I'm sure that the birthday candle traditions were from Mama, who was from Pennsylvania.

Children's birthdays were number of candles = age; adult birthdays were number/color of candles = age in binary.

Actually, we only had 'n' number of candles when quite young. Sometimes friends did n+1 and said it was one to grow on. After a few years we (my family) did just a handful of candles, whatever looked nice (or funny). Now we tend to do no candles, and maybe some other kind of dessert like cheesecake instead of cake -- depending on whose birthday it is!

We were officially Protestant--but I only knew that because, in 3rd grade, I had to ask my mother what to put in "religion" on the order form for the stainless-steel ID bracelet pretty much every kid in 3rd grade ordered.

So it's more like technically-but-not-actually-practicing-Christian, AKA The Presumed American Default.

(Please note that I'm not saying I think it's good that it's the default, but in my experience most people in the US will assume you're some flavor of Christian until they learn otherwise.)

Oh, and my grandparents were from the Midwest on Dad's side and the Pacific Northwest on Mom's, but Mom's Dad's mother came from Wisconsin, so I figured that tipped the balance to "Midwest".

Edited at 2009-03-16 12:36 am (UTC)

I can certainly forgive you forgetting Episcopalian -- if it'd been ticky-boxed, I might have chosen both Protestant and Catholic. *g*

We used to be very count-y about the candles ... now it's just "grab a handful and light the damn things, we don't have all night, here." Very sad.


Well, if you're Episcopalian, then we CAN'T be the same person. :)

As things worked out in my family, we have literally over half the family birthdays in one month: July (three of them on the same day!) So once the numbers got absurd, we did the birthdays in a batch: one big cake, with everybody's names, and candles all along the edge, the size of the cake determining the number of candles.

It was kind of sad as a kid, not having a special birthday cake--going to other kids' parties I learned about things like the trick candles (which never seemed funny to me), the number-shaped candles, having a special design on the cake. But the good thing was we always had an ice cream cake with chocolate crunchies. And I always got the chocolate ice cream parts the chocolate ice cream haters didn't want, in trade for my vanilla slice. ;)

And that's from the Irish Catholic side (grandparents are Irish immigrants). My Jewish stepmom did the n+1 candles when my b-day came around and I was visiting. Homemade cake, too, with chocolate frosting. Yum!

I used Midwest USA for southeastern Canada, because I find that they're usually pretty close to equivalent.

Parents from Midwest USA and Southern USA. N+1 for myself as a child, number candles +1 for kids. :)

For whatever reason I took on the chabad minhag not to blow out candles. I thought this might create problems with my family in relation to my birthday but it has not because for the last 5+ years we've celebrated my birthday on shabbat when I'm in MA and everyone knows I can't blow candles out on shabbat.

Ticky wonders where Canada fits in? There was no option for Canada (since we are definitely not US)


I knew I forgot something.

I'm very sorry.