Hats Off To The Graduate!

May is the month of numerous graduation ceremonies, a time when a graduate’s personal star shines more brightly in the sky as we mark the passage of time and progress in life. Most cultures consider graduation from high school a major milestone and one of the last remaining “rites of passage” in modern societies.

In today’s world, we have graduation ceremonies with a commencement address, where diplomas are awarded to each graduate with a handshake and are typically followed by parties where graduates receive gifts of money and the best wishes of invited guests.

But if we look below the surface we can see that graduation ceremonies are more than just a celebration of earning a diploma. If the ceremony was only about that achievement, then the rite itself would feel more joyful than it usually does. Smiles on graduation day are always blended with tears and a melancholy nostalgia. Graduation takes on special significance in our culture as the one transition where we honor the exciting, challenging, and painful process of “letting go” that begins before high school even starts. The teenager must let go of a childhood and the safety of dependence, and the parents must let go of the emotional anchor around which they oriented plenty of their lives.

It is vital that we honor more than just the student and more than just education at a graduation ceremony; we need to celebrate the special journey that each graduate is making of growing up.  A journey destined to each finding out who they are, what they are naturally good at doing, how they can go into the world and support themselves, and most of all, that they are lifelong learners born with a unique set of skills and gifts to share in this world and leave it a better place than when they arrived.

Hats off to the graduate! Whether you are celebrating a graduation from high school, college or receiving any type of diploma celebrate your journey with one of our very own graduation Cakes.

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How Chocolate Affects The Brain

We love chocolate not just because of the way it tastes. We love it because of the way it makes us feel. It’s rare that something so downright delicious is also good for you, but chocolate is an exception to the rule.

Eating chocolate can make you happy

Dark chocolate boost’ the production of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins bind with opiate receptors in the brain leading to feelings of euphoria, like the kind joggers get from “runner’s high.” They also reduce pain and diminish the negative effects of stress.

chocolate improves blood flow to the brain

Compounds in dark chocolate boost memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. The flavonoids in chocolate have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain in young and old alike.

 chocolate improves learning, memory, and focus

Cocoa’s flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions involved in learning and memory, especially the hippocampus. Chocolate contains flavonoids which improve standardized cognitive test scores. Chocolate also contains some caffeine, a known brain booster that in low doses improves memory, mood, and concentration.

chocolate can help relieve stress

Magnesium is so good at helping you relax that it’s been dubbed the “original chill pill.” This essential mineral reduces stress by suppressing the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Magnesium is largely missing from our diets but chocolate contains a substantial amount of it.

 

Origin Of The Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is an anthropomorphic, egg-laying rabbit who sneaks into homes the night before Easter to deliver baskets full of colored eggs, toys and chocolate.

If you go way back, though, the Easter Bunny starts to make a little sense. Spring is the season of rebirth and renewal. Plants return to life after winter dormancy and many animals mate and procreate. Many cultures held spring festivals to celebrate this renewal of life and promote fertility. One of these festivals was in honor of Eostre or Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility near and dear to the hearts of the pagans in Northern Europe. Eostre was closely linked to the hare and the egg, both symbols of fertility.

As knowledge spread, it was common for missionaries to practice some good salesmanship by placing these ideas and rituals within the context of the faith and turning festivals into custom holidays (e.g. Easter).

The people hung on to the rabbit and eventually, it became a part of a celebration. We don’t know exactly when, but it’s first mentioned in European writings from the 1600s. The Europeans converted the rabbit image into Oschter Haws, a rabbit that was believed to lay a nest of colored eggs as gifts for good children. (A poll of my Twitter followers reveals that 81% of the people who replied believe the Easter Bunny to be male, based mostly on depictions where it’s wearing a bowtie. The male pregnancy and egg-laying mammal aspects are either side effects of trying to lump the rabbit and egg symbols together, or rabbits were just more awesome back then.)

Oschter Haws came to America with Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in the 1700s, and evolved into the Easter Bunny as it became entrenched in American culture. Over time the bunny started bringing chocolate and toys in addition to eggs (the chocolate rabbit began with the Europeans, too, when they started making Oschter Haws pastries in the 1800s).

The origin of the cake

It is believed that the first actual birthday cake was made in Germany in the Middle Ages. The Germans would celebrate children’s birthdays with cake, calling the celebration Kinderfest.

Cakes originally were a coarse, bread-like product, and later became a much sweeter version, called Geburtstagorten.

In the 17th century birthday cakes were made more elaborate with details like icing, layers and decorations, like flowers. However, these kinds of cakes were only affordable by the wealthy, upper class due to the high-priced ingredients.

In the 18th century, food and baking utensils became more accessible, and therefore affordable. With that, the price of cakes went down significantly and the number of cakes produced went up considerably.

One theory is that the history of putting candles on cake began in Ancient Greece. The Greeks would make round cakes to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The lit candles on the cake represented the glow of the moon, and the smoke from the candles carried their prayers and wishes to the Gods who lived in the skies.

Some scholars believe the tradition actually started in Germany, where a candle was supposedly placed on the cake to represent “the light of life”.

Today, most western cultures celebrate birthdays with cake, lit candles and a birthday song. The number of candles usually represents the age of the person being celebrated. Many believe that a silent wish must be made while blowing out all the candles with one breath. The wish cannot be told to anyone else, or it will not come true.

What was once just a simple pastry is now a world of complex varieties and flavors. Some of the most popular flavors include red velvet with cream cheese frosting, vanilla bean with buttercream frosting and the classic chocolate on chocolate. Mmm, we’re getting hungry now! The next time you’re happily celebrating a birthday with friends and family, think back on the long history of this fun and interesting tradition.

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