A Birthday Cake for Jesus: A Story

Many parents wonder how to instill their children with the true meaning of Christmas, how to compete with the excitement of Santa, the jingle bell rocks, the 'stuff' that Christmas has become. This is the story of how my sister sidestepped all the hustle and bustle of Christmas when her boys were young.

Merry Christmas, All.
May your season be filled with traditions that light up the faces you love!

A Birthday Cake for Jesus

The best family food traditions are all about family and tradition and little about food, a lesson hard-learned from my ever-wise sister, Adanna.

When her now-strapping teenboys were little tikes, she introduced the family to the Christmas Eve tradition of celebrating Jesus’ birthday complete with cake and candles and party hats and a round of the Happy Birthday song.

One year, I went to considerable effort to bake a fancy cake with good chocolate and toasted nuts and artful icing. It was good and all but really, nothing memorable.

The next year, late on Christmas Eve, my sister picked up some gaudy, gooey, sugary, frosting-thick cake from the supermarket bakery. (Yes. You can tell, right? It’s true. I admit it! I didn’t approve.)

That night, we gathered round the table, carols quiet in the background. The boys lit the candles atop the cake one by one. We joined hands to sing ‘Happy biiiirtttttthday, dear Jeeeeesus’ in loud, clear voices.

After a brief squabble over who’d blow out the candles, we sliced the cake and added big scoops of ice cream.

I took an unwilling bite, sure it would be awful.

Then I looked up, seeing with wet eyes the smiles on everyone’s faces, the tree lights reflecting in the windows, and understood with new wisdom the real meaning of family traditions.

It was the best cake ever. I ate every bite.

Kids & The Christmas Story

ABOUT the CRÊCHE My mother bought the crêche, piece by piece, at the local dime store in the tiny (1000 people) town in northern Minnesota where I grew up. The pieces are made from plaster and bear a 'Made in Italy' stamp on the bottom. Each Christmas, Mom arranged the crêche atop a maple chest just the right height for a child to stand tippy-toes to peer directly into the manger. The story goes that she would find me there, "talking" to the Baby Jesus. Fast forward many years. Mom made a crêche for me, an exact replica, in a ceramic class and gave my sister the original. Fast forward again. Last year, I let my sister know that Mom giving her the original didn't sit so well. After all, I harumphed, "I was the one who talked to the Baby Jesus." (I have no memory of this but my sister remembers everything!!) Fast forward a year. Adanna wrapped up our mother's crêche, the original, her gift to me for Christmas when we celebrated at Thanksgiving. Once again, my wise sister has exactly -- exactly -- the right touch."

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. "Like" Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

Parents, grandparents and teachers on the look-out for ways to observe Christian holidays with children may like the idea of planting Lenten grass on Ash Wednesday.

© Copyright 2006 & 2010 Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Susan Korstanje12/23/2010

    Thanks, Alanna, for writing about your family's cake and creche traditions. We also have both traditions in our family. Every Advent we set up the creche my grandparents bought on a trip to Italy long before I was born, and on Christmas morning, before stockings or breakfast, my son and daughter place baby Jesus in the stable. We have kept this tradition without fail, even in times of grief when other decorations and festivities seemed empty, because to us Jesus' birth and the love it shows are the whole point of Christmas. We also made birthday cakes for Jesus for many years. The last couple of years I let that tradition slide, as my kids grew older, but now that I have both kids home for Christmas, I think I'll make Jesus' birthday cake again this year. Thank you for the reminder!
    - Susan K from Thunder Bay
    (still enjoying the pomegranate vinegar!)

  2. Enjoyed your story. I always bake a Birthday cake for Jesus even tho my children are grown.
    Merry Christmas and may God Bless you in 2011.

  3. Alanna,

    Merry! Merry!

  4. Jessica in Ohio12/24/2010

    My Mom has the same figurines! It's rare to see the same ones! One of our cats had a grudge against a shepherd. She would always knock him, and ONLY him to the floor!Poor guy! I have a Little People Nativity set for my little Man Cub.I may have to start a similar tradition with him. Merry Christmas!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna