Tomorrow is my birthday – I’ll be 53. No big deal.
Seriously, it doesn’t bother me. Neither did 30 or 40 or 50.
A long time ago I used to think that birthdays were magical. That I would somehow suddenly feel different being a year older.
I never did.
(I also used to think that I would feel different being in another grade at school, but that never happened, either.)
So, in a sense, it will be just another day. Depending on the weather (ah, the joys of a winter birthday!) my roommate and I will probably go out to eat.
I might do some divination for the year ahead. If I didn’t have other things to do that day I would maybe get brave and try the full 210 card Tree of Life Tarot spread, but it takes a great deal of uninterrupted time.
At any rate, I’ve been pondering birthdays and birthday traditions. Not just the blow out the candles on the cake tradition, but the sorts of things that are unique to individual families.
One of ours was that the birthday person got their favorite food for dinner that day. My grandfather never expressed a preference: my mother’s was always stuffed pork chops. (I can still see my grandfather’s hands as he stood at the counter stuffing them.)
Mine? Creamed chipped beef on toast. Yeah, yeah. I know it’s called “shit on a shingle” but I love the stuff.
And there was cake, of course. Again, the choice was left up to the birthday person. Mine was always chocolate, preferably with chocolate peanut butter frosting. Mom’s was chocolate. My grandfather’s was a spice cake.
My most memorable birthday cake was a round layer cake. My mother frosted it with green coconut frosting, built a fence out of Twizzlers, put a couple plastic horse figurines on it (I was – and still am – a horse lover). She even put on a few malted milk balls behind the horses for authenticity…
And then there was the unicorn cake I made my mother. She was working third shift, so I baked it while she was sleeping and put it in the freezer to hide it, and so it would be firm enough to frost. (She had been taking a cake decorating class which meant that I learned how to do it too.) After she left for work I started frosting it. All went well until the directions told me to make the horn from royal frosting. I had no idea what royal frosting was or how to make it, and I couldn’t find the recipe in her cake books. (This was pre-internet days.) I was tired and frustrated and facing a white horse with blue eyes and mane. It needed a horn. The horn in the picture was orange in color. A light dawned.
And a few minutes later the unicorn had a horn.
I cleaned a carrot, shaped it, stuck a toothpick in the big end and stabbed it into the cake.
It’s odd, how memories work. Most of my Christmas memories center around the tree, and most of my birthday memories center around food. I
(In fact, the only birthday present that really sticks in my mind was when I turned 16, (and was thus eligible for my learner’s permit for driving): I was given a set of keys to the family cars. I suppose I remember it because it was something of a rite of passage.)
Now, we’re more likely to go out for a birthday dinner (the birthday person gets their choice of restaurants) – a new tradition being forged.
As a kitchen witch, however, I find it intriguing that my birthday memories center around food. I don’t think that anything makes you feel quite as loved and cared for and… special… as having your favorite meal prepared for you.
Less than a week until Imbolc.
Imbolc is one of my favorite Sabbats although it was one that I had the hardest time understanding when I was starting out. For some reason I just couldn’t quite grasp what it meant.
Then one year I was working as a temp and was between assignments, when I got a phone call – on Imbolc – about a short-term job, and that was when it clicked.
Imbolc is about beginnings and possibilities and hidden promises.
I am in more or less the same position this year: between jobs. I have an interview later today for a part-time position that is ideally close to home. (A five-minute commute sure beats a sixty minute commute!)
Imbolc, in my own personal tradition (I should name my own personal tradition one of these days…) is the start of spring.
Sure, it doesn’t look like spring, at least, not here in Western Pennsylvania, but, nonetheless, it is the start of spring.
It is halfway between Midwinter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and the hours of daylight are noticeably longer.
And, in the words of one of my favorite Pagan songs, “The Rolling World”
“All life in the earth begins to unfold
As the waxing light is seen.
Each seedling will sprout into its own self,
To inspire us to be truly free.”
So, what do I do for Imbolc?
I keep an eye on the weather. (Imbolc is also known as Candlemas.)
“If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Winter has flown and will not come again.”
And I usually swear at the groundhog and listen to my roommate – who hates winter with a passion rarely seen in a sane individual – threaten to sell raffle tickets to see who gets to shoot him first. (Punxsutawney isn’t that far away from where I live.)
On a more spiritual level, I give thanks for new beginnings and new promises.
I plant seeds. (I’m currently torn between snapdragons, marigolds, tomatoes, or zucchinis.)
And I make rice pudding.
From my Cookbook of Shadows:
Any symbols of the sun or fertility are appropriate for this Sabbat, as are foods that incorporate milk products. (My favorite Imbolc food is rice pudding, as it incorporates fertility symbols, sun symbols, and lots of milk.)
1 cup rice, cooked and drained — wash pan and cook these ingredients:
4 cups of milk — symbolizing the milk of the Goddess
1 cup of sugar — for the sweetness of life
2 eggs, beaten — symbolizing both the sun and new life/fertility
1 tblsp cornstarch — to thicken and bind
1 tsp vanilla — because every recipe has vanilla in it
Add rice and cook (over Brigid’s Fire) stirring until it is like custard.
While stirring in a deosil (clockwise) direction, visualize the things you want to draw into your life. This is also a good coven or family activity, as everyone can take turns stirring it.
May the growing light show you the way to yourself.