We ate cake (again) today at work.
One of our custodians is retiring and the social committee honored him with a little cake and an acknowledgement from the faculty.
I became fixated on the cake because birthdays, retirement, a baby, all seem to stir up another cake at work. There is always a cake someplace in our building.
Seinfeld episode once lampooned the 20th century indulgence of cake within the workplace. Two separate men named Walter celebrated a birthday and a retirement on the same day. Before two pieces of cake are piled onto Elaine's paper plate, she bristles, "you know there are 200 people who work in this office. Every day is somebody's special day." In the background, half of colleagues sing "For he's a jolly good fellow" for the retiring Walter at the same time that the other half sing "Happy Birthday to the other Walter."
Cake is old. And so is the ritual of using cake for celebrations.
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about cake being served at special occasions, and evidence exists that the Egyptians created cake-like treats covered in honey, fruit, and nuts. It seems that we can thank the English for the placement of trinkets and candles and wish-making, and the Romans for unearthing cheese cake.
Some cakes were shaped round on purpose--to honor the moon or the sun. In other cultures, ingredients were so rare that combining them into a cake made celebrating the momentous event even more special.
And, with that, cakes carried a symbolism with them through the ages and that symbolism still stands today. When we share in a piece of cake at work, we're continuing the traditions of symbolically showing someone that they are special and that they mean something to us.
So, the next time...tomorrow?...a cake is paraded out into a faculty meeting, grab a piece! You wouldn't want to upend thousands of years ancient traditions?