Looking Back: Traditions

I was reading through some old Calvin and Hobbes strips recently when I came across the one that inspired this image (which I found at actionthisday.deviantart.com)

Like most Calvin and Hobbes strips, it was funny, but this one had a point too.

In the first panel of the strip, Calvin says, “The more you think about things, the weirder they seem.” The picture above shows you his example of this. But, if you, yourself, stop to think about it, you’ll probably be able to come up with your own.

The first one that came to my mind (while singing at someone’s party) was putting candles on birthday cakes. How did that start? Why is that a thing?

Was someone sitting around a long time ago thinking: “I made them this cake for their birthday, but it’s not enough. It seems kind of boring. What can I do to make this cake more exciting? I know! I’ll light it on fire!”

So, the party comes and they pour some liquor on top and light it to make a cake flambe. Then, as the flames start burning out of control, the guest of honor screams, “I really wish you’d put the fire out.” Everyone runs into the street. The fire brigade shows up, but it’s too late. Once the flames burn out, the house is nothing but stone and ash.

That’s when the town asshole, from the back of the crowd, chimes in, “It looks like your birthday wish came true.”

Then the town chandler walks up and says, “I think, I think, that candles would be easier to put out.” He’ll look around for a moment before asking, “Could that house be any more burnt down?”

(Sorry. I actually wasn’t planning the Friends joke, but according to Google, chandler is the technical term for someone who makes and sells candles and I couldn’t help myself.)

Ok, that may be a little over the top, but that’s how I picture it in my head. There’s probably a logical reason behind the start of putting candles on birthday cakes. Or, at least, one that made sense at the time it all started.

Take saying “God bless you,” when someone sneezes, for example. At the time this practice was invented, it was thought that a person only sneezed when they were trying to eject a demon that had invaded their body. So, you would say, “God bless you,” to encourage them in their fight against Satan. It makes sense when you use that logic.

Fast forward to now.

We know that sneezing has nothing to do with demons, yet a lot of people still say this when someone sneezes. Or they at least say the shortened, “Bless you,” when someone does it.

But, why? The reasoning behind the tradition no longer makes sense. Still, we continue to do it anyway.

I suppose the argument could be made that we keep it going because it’s seen as being polite. Personally, the only thing hearing someone say, “Bless you,” does for me is remind me that I sneezed. That’s something I didn’t need to be reminded of. I’m not rude about it. I will take the time (usually) to thank someone who says it to me. To be honest, though, I’d rather you didn’t say anything at all.

But, that’s just me.

What about you? Are there any things or traditions that you can think of that just don’t make sense once you stop to think about them?

6 comments on “Looking Back: Traditions

  1. I know I’m rather late to this, but my husband read somewhere that in some cultures they used to say “Congratulations!” after somebody sneezed because they thought that you had just expelled evil from your body. So, guess what my husband now says after I sneeze…

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