Tacky cakes > Communion wafers

April 16th, 2011, 12am

I was raised Catholic.

Any time I tell someone that, I can feel them thinking, “And what are you now?” Because it’s understood that very few people raised within The Church stay with The Church because The Church forces you to give up all your Sunday mornings, leaving you with less time to play video games and watch cartoons.

I taught Sunday school for a while, before I came out as an atheist. I mostly did so because it allowed me to leave Mass early, but also because I was being trained by The Church to be one of their youth leaders: the kind of kid who could feign being a ‘real kid’ and infiltrate cool places like coffee shops, using jargon and wearing clothing that was only five or six years behind everyone else their age. A great leap, really, for an institution that is regularly decades or centuries behind the rest of the world in so many ways.

My family, though the ages, has always been Catholic. Many of my (many) uncles went to seminary school, but all eventually dropped the cloth in order to live in the real world. As a kid, even post-breakup with The Church, I couldn’t ever see my parents or siblings joining me on the secular side, but eventually they all did, though for different reasons, and in different ways. And in their own time.

As a result, we found ourselves, one Christmas, lacking many of the traditions we’d always participated in throughout the years. No late night Mass, no candles representing God-knows-what, no prayers or whatever. Just good ol’ secular consumerism. It was a holiday that very well could have lacked flavor.

Thankfully, someone decided to go to the local Dairy Queen and pick up a tacky cake.

What happened was this:

My sister’s birthday was just a few months prior to the big secular Christmas event, and as a joke that emerged from our not being able to find a decent cake for her, we found the tackiest, wackiest, weirdest cake available. I recall it being something to do with Power Rangers and fishing, and it had someone else’s name on it. It was glorious.

The joke was stretched to the point of breaking when we did the same for my father’s birthday a month or so later. Tacky cake, big laughs, good, wholesome family values.

By extending this same joke to Christmas — by allowing ourselves to wield the tacky cake on any holiday we might wish, not just birthdays — we’d broken an established barrier between ‘holidays during which we can do whatever the hell’ and ‘holidays that have some kind of meaning for social groups we are or were once a part of.’

In short, we’d taken back Christmas. And the next year, Easter. And then Thanksgiving. Tacky cakes all around, and the tackier, the better.

It’s become our new tradition — something we gather around as a family — to choose a few people for the honor of trekking out into the grocery stores and bakeries of wherever we’re at, to hunt down the perfect imperfect cake. There is generally some kind of dramatic unveiling, followed by laughter and playful arguing over who gets the piece with Godzilla on it, or who gets the slice that comes with a plastic toy wrench.

This is how traditions are born. I like to think that someday, generations from now, some family will feel just as compelled to dogmatically indulge in a tacky cake ceremony as we once felt compelled to attend Mass. I imagine they’ll likewise gather together and break said tradition, inventing their own novel, wacky activity, and pass it down to their descendants, perpetuating a larger, overarching-but-invisible tradition. One that involves actually enjoying holidays; heretically, if necessary.

David Wade, Lia, Samuel, Craig and 1 more said thanks.

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Colin Wright

Author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler / I move to a new country every four months based on the votes of my readers / My work (http://colin.io) / My blog (http://exilelifestyle.com) / My publishing company (http://asymmetrical.co)

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