Midnight Birthday Candle and Banana

Text: “At midnight every year, I blow out a candle, but I save it for midnight Eastern Time, ’cause that was the time that I was born in. And then I also eat a banana at midnight.”


The informant is a student at the University of Southern California studying Political Economy and originally from Minnesota, speaking almost in a hurry and without much emotion resembling nostalgia or fondness.

“Apparently I used to coincidentally eat bananas for the first couple of years of my life, and now it’s just kind of become my little tradition for my birthday. I think it’s when I was a kid, my grandma used to always be a really strong advocate for bananas because she said potassium was good for you. And the night before my birthday I would normally spend the night at her house, just because you know, who doesn’t want to spend the night with their grandma on their birthday. And they just sort of started happening. But when I was a kid, I also didn’t really stay up till midnight for my birthday. So it was normally like, right before I went to bed, right when I woke up. Now it feels like I have to do it because it just kind of reminds me of home, I think. And I think that it’s a nice way for me to just kind of remember my childhood a little.”

Analysis: This tradition is an example of a ritual performed in celebration of a commemoration of a significant event, in this case a birthday. In ritualizing a birthday, an individual life cycle is being celebrated which contributes to the formation of one’s identity. This individual life cycle is being ritualized in a manner that puts it on the calendar cycle. This specific tradition occurs at midnight, ritualizing the liminal or the “in-between” which is often considered to be where the magic happens. In the uncomfortable nature of change, the transition is celebrated to make it more exciting and desirable. The sequence of this tradition is also evidently important as many are in rituals, with the candle first and then the banana.