One of my favourite things about Korea is cake day.
Yes, on a superficial level this is largely because it involves getting cake. The why of it, however, is what brings it from an appreciable day of fatness to an adorable why-don’t-we-do-this-everywhere.
Cake day is this: somewhere around the first of every month, you have cake to cumulatively and objectively celebrate birthdays for everyone born that month.
In this way, you automatically are on the ball about wishing everyone a happy birthday and everyone gets a regularly guaranteed slice of sweetness.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves with excitement (aka before I justify to myself that it’s cool if I buy myself a cake on the 1st of every month in the name of all born in January/February/March, etc)…
…cakedays aren’t usually celebrated by the average person. There’s only two places that I’ve experienced cake days: my school and the YMCA when I was taking Korean classes.
How it works is in these huge establishments (or largish groups) where there are a lot of people (and hence a lot of birthdays), the closest day to the first of the month wherein you’re all gathered together, you usually have some celebratory cake.
My school does it very simply in handing out squares of pastry as the day’s dessert. I think my favourite so far has been the blueberry cake – an unexpectedly delightful flavour with, I’m fairly certain, no real blueberries used at all whatsoever in the making.
When I was at the Y, however, they took it to a whole other level.
Similarly, the celebration would take place on the Saturday closest to the start of the month when we were all meeting. But afterward they’d set up our classroom – chairs put away, desks aligned around the room, tablecloths spread, cakes laid out – and candles on top. Then they’d call forward all those whose birthday it was that month and those lucky few would have to bear the shame of a deafening chorus of “Happy Birthday” belted at them.
The foreigners were usually much less keen than the Koreans about being put on display and they blew out the candles awkwardly. The rest of us ignored their discomfort because we were getting cake and who cares about anything else!
And it wasn’t just cake – the YMCA went all out and set up an entire buffet of fruit, salads, cookies, crackers…it was amazing. I had pictures, but they were on my hard drive that just crashed (curse you!!) – so I’ll add a drawing from Hyperbole and a Half to demonstrate my feelings on this event.
So there you have it: cake day. Spread the word, tell your friends – tell your boss! It’s the greatest thing mankind has invented short of cake itself.
[Slight disclaimer: I should probably admit that I don’t know if these are officially called “cake days”, but I’ve named them thus because it’s just the most fitting. So if you conversation-starter with a Korean about cake days and they’re confused, I apologize in advance.]
Also now that this post is over and I’ve spent much time looking for appropriate cake pictures to include….I’m really hungry.
I’d like to dedicate this post to all those born in the month of March – especially my dear friends SSG and MB. Happy birthday!