Published: 06:00, 23 June 2021
| Updated: 07:53, 23 June 2021
As restrictions ease and party plans pick up pace there could be one birthday ritual that may not survive in a post-pandemic world.
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With one bakery company unveiling plans this week for a 'no blow' birthday candle - is the tradition of blowing-out candles in front of a crowd of party goers being snuffed-out by coronavirus?
Betty Crocker, whose products adorn supermarket baking aisles, has released pictures of a prototype candle that won't require the birthday girl or boy to any longer huff and puff across a cake, which is then usually shared between guests.
The cone-shaped 'candle' has been designed to ensure, says the company, that the birthday cake ritual of singing and celebrations is not lost to our new found awareness of the potential to spread germs.
Made using an LED light and microphone the gadget responds to noise levels including singing and clapping, which trigger different lighting patterns, before ending with a strobe pattern where children - or adults - can then make a wish.
The prototype, which is not yet for sale, but has been unveiled on its website is described as a '21st century take' on the traditional flame candle.
After more than a year of face masks and 'hands, face, space' adverts it's perhaps no surprise that both party hosts and guests may feel more cautious about serving or eating cake that has been blown on by someone outside of their immediate household.
According to a survey of 2,000 parents carried out by Betty Crocker, more than one-in-two parents agreed that blowing out candles on a cake was no longer Covid-friendly, with a third admitting they would worry if their child had eaten a slice of cake which had been blown on.
The numbers support previous research carried out in April, at the start of the government's roadmap, by personalised birthday cake company Bakerdays.com which suggested 74% of the 2,500 customers it asked had already decided to ditch the tradition with 97% saying the last year of the pandemic had made them more aware about how 'unhygienic' it might be.
Arnaud Sliwa from Betty Crocker, said: “Unfortunately the pandemic has meant a few traditions have been lost, and blowing out birthday candles is one of them. Our research tells us however that the cake is not lost, in fact it’s still very much at the heart of the party.
"Our germ-free candle solution reacts to universal expressions of joy and celebration: singing and clapping. Give it all you got to light it up completely, make your wish - and then extinguish it with a single clap, no blowing required. We’ve imagined it as a way to lose the germs but keep the cake.”
There are also numerous threads on parenting website Mumsnet, posted in the last few months, where families faced with the prospect of organising children's celebrations this summer share the same dilemma.
Questions such as 'Would I be unreasonable to let my son blow out his birthday candles', 'Can anyone suggest an alternative to candles for a 4yo boy' and 'Can I ask about current birthday party etiquette' all generate hundreds of responses from fellow parents sharing their own concerns about spreading Covid, particularly to elderly relatives such as grandparents, and whether the tradition is no longer socially acceptable when hosting party guests.
Others suggest adopting new more Covid-safe approaches such as serving individual cupcakes instead of a large cake to share or intentions to cut the birthday cake first in order to give the birthday child a slice with his or her candles on before guests then sing happy birthday.
While one member expresses her relief that coronavirus may now finally prevent children blowing on cakes admitting 'I would avoid a cake a 5yo has spat all over at the best of times to be honest'.