The Post-Covid Birthday Cake: Virginia Dad Brings Back Candles (Safely)
It was my son's 18th birthday recently. Covid-19 restrictions have eased locally in recent weeks, so we were exciting to be able to gather with some family members to celebrate the day - something that wasn't possible a few weeks ago, and certainly not last year, when we were in the depths of lockdown. Of course, I went to town on the decorations and I bought a lavish cake (his favourite type: lemon).
But I vacillated about buying candles. In a world where we've now been taught to be scared of each other's breath - a world of masks, ventilation and protective screens - should I be encouraging anyone to blow all over the surface of a cake?! I wasn't sure. In the end, I bought the candle, but he took it off the cake to blow it out.
Mark Apelt, a dad from Virginia in the US, thought a lot more about this issue than I did. And he'd been thinking about it for a lot longer, too. Way before Covid-19, he'd attended a kids' birthday party where he said the sun illuminated droplets of spittle when the kid blew out his cake candles. (I know. Beautiful image). He and the other parents watching this scene turned to each other and wondered aloud about the hygiene aspect, and whether or not it would be possible to create a less germ-ridden way to carry out the traditional cake candle ritual.
His pondering led him - after checking to see if anyone else had had a similar idea, and learning they hadn't - to create, during the pandemic lockdown, a device called the Blowzee, which extinguishes candles when someone breathes into it - but not with their own breath.
There's a little electric sensor in there, so when you blow into it, you're activating the sensor, and it switches on the fan, and that creates enough clean air flow to blow out the candle. Meanwhile, the air you blow circles around and comes back toward you. - Mark Apelt
At first, Apelt just distributed the gadget to friends and family, but there was such immediate interest that he's now selling it online. He said that kids see it as a fun toy, and parents are even putting them in party gift bags so everyone can have a turn. Meanwhile, parents are reassured that when they take a slice of birthday cake home, it isn't covered with the birthday kid's spittle.
A true winning formula all around.