January our birthday month! We all celebrate birthdays, but have you ever asked yourself why? What was the first birthday ever recorded? Why do we celebrate with cake and candles? Did the Beatles and Michael Jackson really own The Birthday Song? We answer these questions and more.
We are joined today by Yami from the podcasts, Cryptid Chats with Yami and Order66Podcast. She details what birthdays are like in Puerto Rico as well as the rich, globe-trotting history of the Piñata! You can find her on Instagram @cryptidchatgirl.
Also joining us for the ride is Talegate regular, Skunky the Florida Skunk Ape, voiced once more by Tim Arnold. Humans aren't the only ones with Birthday traditions, you know? Skunky teaches us about Skunk Ape birthdays and celebratory milestones of Native Americans.
Check out more on these topics by listening to The Talegate Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or any other fine podcast directories; and please rate, review, and subscribe. OR simply follow the link our user-friendly website at www.thetalegatepodcast.com! Also, be sure to follow us on Instagram @thetalegatepodcast and write us with your own stories at TheTalegatePodcast@gmail.com.
THE TALEGATE PODCAST
Episode 10: BIRTHDAY BACKSTORIES (ft. Yami)
PART 1: INTRODUCTIONS
FLORIDA MAN: Howdy folks, and welcome to The Talegate!
CHEESEHEAD: For those of you just joining us, we’re on a roadtrip across America to uncover the mysteries behind tall tales, fairy tales, folktales, fishtales, & urban legends, one interview at a time.
FM: We inherited a truck from our late Granny May only to discover that the crystal hanging off the rearview mirror was more than decorative. It is a Dowsing Pendulum leading us to the good folks behind the tales we all grew up with. Oh, and we’re also cursed by a mummy.
CH: Oh yah, can’t forget the death curse. But ignore all that for a moment because January is our birthday month!
FM: Sure is! Cheesehead’s is early on, mine’s on towards the end. Aaaand with that, I’m Harrison, the Florida Man.
CH: And I’m Aaron, the Cheesehead.
YAMI: And I’m Yami!
CH: Gah! Whoa, wait as sec. Who?
YAMI: Yami! From the podcast, CryptidChat with Yami.
CH: Ah shoot, I was thinking more like Yami-Yugi from YU-GI-OH.
YAMI: Definitely not.
FM: Well Yami, how ‘bout you intro-Du-Du-Du-Du-Du-Duce yourself?
YAMI: Why thank you! Well as you all know by now, I am Yami! I’m the creator and host of CryptidChat with Yami, a podcast about cryptids, the paranormal, supernatural, and weird. I’m also from Puerto Rico, home of the Chupacabra and some pretty bomb food.
CH: Wowzers! So it sounds like your podcast has a lot of the same subject matter and goals as ours does only, yah know, far more successful.
FM: Well, when the bar is at your ankles, you only gotta jump so high.
CH: True. Either way, it’s a pleasure to have you on The Talegate! Have a seat with us, I’ll grab you a brewski and can talk up some Cryptids.
YAMI: No need. I actually brought some for you. Here! Happy Birthday, Talegaters!
CH: Golly! Angry Orchards Hard Cider with a cute birthday ribbon on top? How did you even know?
YAMI: Because January happens to be my birthday, too.
CH: Awesome, Happy Birthday, Yami! Cheers!
FM: Usually, this is the point in the podcast where I’d say, “what we drinkin’ today, Cheesehead,” but since that part’s been covered already, hows ‘bout we get down to business?
YAMI: To defeat the Huns?
CH: Mulan? I love that movie! I didn’t see the new one when it first came out though, because you had to pay for it on top of Disney+.
FM: Yea, Disney, we ain’t made of money!
[Door swings open]
YAMI: What is this? Isn’t that a quote from Charlie in All Dogs go to Heaven, voiced by...? Wait--did you guys hire a Burt Reynolds impersonator for my Birthday!?
YAMI: Hey now, I like Burt Reynolds as much as the next Floridian, but a strip-celebrity impersonator it a little much, guys.
FM: Oh, yea no, we thought the same thing, too, when we first met him, but he ain’t what you think he is.
SKUNKY: [Burt Reynolds laugh] Shucks no. it’s just me, the Florida Skunk Ape!
YAMI: [In awe] Oh my gosh, it is! You are! It’s an actual a skunk ape. That’s a real, genuine, bonafide skunk ape!
SKUNKY: Friends call me, “Skunky!”
YAMI: It’s nice to meet you, Skunky. What, what are you doing here though? Don’t you have motion sensors to trigger and blurry photos to strut through?
SKUNKY: I took the day off, because, like you and my best buds here, January’s my birthday, Too!
CH: Oh you betcha! I invited ol Skunky here to party with us and help us discover the history behind the concept of “birthdays” itself. Hope you don’t mind, Yami.
YAMI: Of course not. It’s just that I’m used to researching and discussing cryptids, not partying with them.
FM: You ain’t a stranger to Skunk Apes though. Hell, you got pictures with Social Distancing Skunk Ape over at Gatorland.
CH: Plus, The Florida Skunk Ape was also our very first guest interview on The Talegate. We go back.
SKUNKY: Memories, man.
PART 2: THE FIRST BIRTHDAYS
FM: So folks celebrate their birthdays each and every year-- Jehovah’s Witnesses not withstandin’. But most folks don’t know history behind their celebrated narcissisms.
CH: I mean, everybody is born. So you’d think the birthday would have been around since the dawn of time.
FM: And, in a way it was. Not the dawn of time, objectively, but the dawn of the calendar year. Anniversaries weren’t really a thing when you just huntin’ and gatherin’ and shit.
YAMI: You also have to consider that civilizations around the world didn’t all create the calendar at the same time, nor were the earliest calenders--or even the calendars today--adhering to the same systematic rotations.
FM: I’m tellin’ ya. I thought most my life I was a Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac because my buffet placemats always showed the Tiger reppin’ the year 1986. Weren’t til adulthood when I realized the Chinese New Year ain’t on no set day. It’s a lunisolar, meanin’ it follows the lunar cycles. So their New Years usually winds up fallin’ on the second blue moon of the Winter Solstice between Jan. 21-Feb 21. Since their months are shorter, Chinese calendars got a Leap Month every three years to stay synced up with the seasons.
YAMI: Wow! I know we follow the Gregorian Calendar, which is a set 365 (or 365.2425, if you want to get technical) days a year, with New Years always beginning on January 1st.
SKUNKY: Gregorian? Who’s that?
YAMI: Way back in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Calendar we know here in the Western World. He inserted Leap Years to correct a marginal error that existed in therelatively similar Julian Calendar which overestimated the length of the solar year. I say, “Western World,” but I mean more specifically, the colonized Western World, because many Mesoamerica people, the Mayan for example, used Long Count Calendars based on lunar cycles.
SKUNKY: Skunk Apes and our Sasquatch brethren have roamed this continent for ages and picked up on a lot of the human traditions. Similar to what Yami just described, many tribes here follow a lunar calender as well. The Lakota and Cherokee, for example, use a calendar broken by 13 moons, with each moon being 28 days long.
SKUNKY: You probably know them by another name, the Sioux. But I wouldn’t use that term if I were you. It’s an abbreviation of “Nadowessioux,” meaning "little snakes," given to them by a rival tribe and adopted European fur traders. So, the term ain’t nice.
CH: Have indigenous people celebrated birthdays as we know them today?
SKUNKY: This is coming from a Skunk Ape, so I can’t speak on their behalf with any Authority what-so-ever, but I think many tribes more or less celebrate milestones in life as opposed to the day they were born.
CH: Interesting, makes sense. Speaking of “birthdays:” according to biblical scholars, the first “birthday” goes back to ancient Egypt. However, this isn’t the conventional birthday celebration we know of today, but an event celebrating the pharaoh's “birth” into god-hood.
SKUNKY: So more like a re-birthday.
CH: Sounds about right.
YAMI: I think you’re referring to Genesis 40:20, the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament’s one and only mention of “birthdays.”
And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker among his servants.
FM: Damn, girl. Ain’t know you versed in ancient texts and all shit.
YAMI: I studied at a Christian college. You kinda just learn these kinds of things.
YAMI: That said, Persians were all about that birthday life. At least according to Herodotus, a 5th-century historian from ancient Greece.
FM: According to Zach Snyder’s, The 300, the Persians knew a thing or two about throwing parties. That scene had the straight up Pope Lick Monster partyin’ with ‘em. Sounds bonkers.
SKUNKY: You have a Skunk Ape partying with you right now, so what are you trying to say?
FM: Good point.
YAMI: Also, consider that birthdays, sometimes referred to as “name days,” weren’t always centered around your own birthday.
CH: What does that even mean?
YAMI: Old catholic birthdays revolved round the birthday of the saint from who your Christian Name was derived. Also known as a Saint’s Day.
CH: Most impressive.
SKUNKY: You know, peasant folk in medieval times celebrated Saint Days while nobility celebrated their own actual birthdays.
FM: We wore a crown and celebrate my actual birthday at Medieval Times Dinner Theater, so that checks.
SKUNKY: Peasants, however, celebrated Saint’s Day.
PART 3: Cakes and Candles
CH: Well All I know is that I celebrate my birthday with cake and beer. And you can thank Ancient Rome for that one. In fact, you can thank the Romans for being first to celebrate the birth of common folks in general. In terms of cake, any guy who lived to fifty years old received a cake of wheat flour, olive oil, grated cheese, and honey. Not your traditional birthday cake, but whatcha gonna do?
YAMI: Wait, any guy who lived to fifty received a cake?
CH: Oh yah. Ancient civilizations aren’t exactly known for sex equality. It actually wasn’t until the 12th century when women were commonly celebrated alongside men.
YAMI: That’s terrible.
FM: While Roman’s may have had an early form of cake to celebrate birthdays, it were the Germans, far as I read, who came up with the more traditional birthday cake we all know and love to today.
SKUNKY: I’m guessing Black Forest cake?
FM: Good guess, but no. Actually, maybe? Ain’t clear on the specifics of the cake. But it was sweet for sure, and introduced during Kinderfeste. As the prefix “kinder” suggests, it was a birthday party for kids where they were served up a bigass cake with candles and the whole nine. Even blew ‘em out to make wishes. This weren’t so far back as Ancient Rome or nothing though. Reckon somewhere in the 1700’s.
YAMI: Birthday candles on cakes actually goes back to Ancient Greece when moon cakes were made to appease the Goddess of the Moon. They believed that by blowing out the candles and making a prayer or wish, the gods of Olympus would receive them.
SKUNKY: You think that’s impressive? Ancient Skunk Apes made cakes of moist gator droppings, dry them puppies overnight, and bust out the flint the following evening to light them up! Over the flaming turds, we’d make a Blackbeary pie to serve for the birthday Squatch.
FM: I love me some blackberries.
SKUNKY: You misheard me. The pie isn’t made of black berries.
FM: Ain’t? But you said as much.
SKUNKY: Nah, I said Blackbear...y. The pie had a filling of minced up black bear and whatever else we can find. So it ain’t a proper “black bear” pie. Just sorta black bear-y.
YAMI: You gotta love those Skunk Ape birthday traditions.
SKUNKY: Aw shucks, I was hoping you’d say that. Because I brought y’all a big ol’ blackbeary pie to celebrate with!
CH: Jesus, Mary, Joseph. You definitely shouldn’t have.
SKUNKY: Betcha if you just try a bite and you’ll be singing my praises.
PART 4: MUSIC
FM: Speaking of singin’, one thing synonymous with birthdays in almost every culture is music. The most commonly heard of these anthemss, ‘least ‘round these parts, is sang to a tune dating back to 1893 written by sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill. Hill sisters got their tune published in a book for teachers under the title, “Good Morning to you.”
YAMI: So the most popular birthday song was never even meant to be sung for birthdays?
FM: Nah. Worst part is, like many women in history, a man later published his own lyrics in 1924, “Happy Birthday To You.” Which swept the nation and effectively buried the Hill sister’s lyrics into obscurity.
CH: Well, as relatively obscure as “Good Morning to You” may be, the third Hill sister was tired of everyone using her family’s tune without making a dime of it, so she took it to court and won the rights. She cemented this by officially publishing the song through Clayton F. Summy Company between 1933 and 1935.
SKUNKY: I always heard that rights to “The Birthday Song” was owned by Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney.
CH: I grew up hearing that, too, but those are just urban legends.
YAMI: The Beatles did have a birthday song, though, called, “Say It’s Your Birthday.” Not quite as catchy though.
CH: Hill published under Summy Company, which changed its name to Birch Tree Ltd., and assimilated into Warner Music in 1963, whose copyright wasn’t set to expire until 2030. However, they got greedy and charged millions for use of the song until one lady got tired of Warners’ shit and took them to court.
FM: How’d that work out for them?
CH: Bad. Real bad. As of 2016, not only was the Birthday Song declared public domain, but Warner Music had to reimburse anyone they charged previously for its use.
YAMI: In Spanish, we use the same tune, only we sing, “Cupleoanos Feliz.” Which takes some lyrical acrobats, considering the correct way to wish someone a happy birthday in Spanish is by saying, Feliz, Cupleanos.” The Spanish version technically translates to “Birthday Happy” to match the syllables of the original.
FM: Damn. Well then, a very Birthday happy to you, Yami.
PART 5: PINATAS
YAMI: Haha, thanks. What were birthdays like for you growing up?
CH: Some of my most memorable were at Chuck E. Cheese, where a kid can be a kid.
FM: Mines were mostly at McDonalds.
YAMI: Wait, what? You celebrated your birthday at a fastfood restaurant?
FM: Man, listen, back in ‘80s and early ‘90s McDonalds was fucking lit. They’s play music, decorate your corner of the restaurant in balloons, and even had Ronald McDonald there to hype it up. Ain’t you ever seen Mac and Me?
YAMI: I guess I was too young for all that. For my family, no birthday party was complete without the bursting of the piñata.
SKUNKY: I always wanted to try hittin a piñata to try all them colorful candies. The piñata is mostly a latino thing, right?
YAMI: Many latino and hispanic countries do enjoy piñatas, but the history of this birthday tradition is believed to go back 700 years to ancient China.
Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, witnessed this custom, which was originally a New Years tradition, not for birthdays.
SKUNKY: So you tellin’ me neither the birthday song or piñatas were originally meant for birthdays? Shucks.
YAMI: Correct. The Chinese piñatas were filled with seeds representing prosperity and the remains of the piñata were burned into ash for good luck. Marco Polo introduced the custom to Europe. The word “piñata” comes from the Italian word, “pignatta” meaning “fragile pot” due to these early versions being made of clay.
SKUNKY: When was the tradition introduced to the Spanish?
YAMI: I’m not actually sure the exact date, but I do know that Spain incorporated the tradition into holy festivals. The first Sunday in Lent turned into a fiesta known as ‘Dance of the Piñata’. It was carried into the Americas by missionaries and has blossomed into the colorful, violent game we all know and love today.
FM: In Los Angeles there is actually several blocks downtown known as the Piñata’ District. You can get literally any Piñata you can imagine from Spider-Man to Donald Trump.
CH: Yah, I’d love to bash his face in with a bat and watch him bleed sweet sweet candy.
FM: Or edibles.
CH: Now we’re talking!
YAMI: All this birthday talk, and we’ve yet to ask you about your birthday traditions, Skunky. What are birthdays like growing as a Florida Skunk Ape?
SKUNKY: Why I’m glad you asked! Our traditions are pretty normal. Boring, one might say. We start the day as we always do, lighting palm branched under the Burt Renolds alter [BR laugh]. Then it’s a feast of deep fried squirrel, MmmMm! That’s some good eatin’!
CH: Ah geez. I’m almost scared to ask, but what kind of presents do skunk apes even get on their birthdays?
SKUNKY: Mostly Walmart gift cards and Hawaiian shirts.
CH: That checks.
PART 6: FAREWELL
FM: And on that note, I think I’m ready for this party to be more drinkin’ and less yappin.
CH: Yah, for sure. Thank you for joining us for our special Birthday episode of The Talegate. And Happy Birthday to all you Capricorns and Aquariuses out there!
FM: Got any special birthday traditions, experienced the supernatural, seen UFOS, or encountered any cryptids like ‘ol Skunky here? Tell us all about it by emailin’ us at email@example.com and be sure to check us out on Instagram @thetalegate podcast for photos, cast info, updates, and more.
YAMI: Make sure to check out my podcast, CryptidChat with Yami, and follow me as well on instragram- @cryptidchatgirl and on twitter- @cryptidchat
CH: Oh definitely do that. Her podcast is way better than ours.
FM: See ya later, Talegaters!
SKUNKY: [BR laugh]
SKUNKY: Thank y’all for joining us for our Birthday Special! Today’s special guest is Yami from the Podcast, Cryptid Chats with Yami. Follow her on Instagram @criptidchatgirl. Skunky the Skunk Ape is played by Tim Arnold. He ain’t no Burt Reynolds, but what you gonna do? Aaron the Cheesehead is played by Aaron Sherry, you can check him out on his Youtube channel, So Can You. Harrison the Florida Man is played by Harrison Foreman. Theme Song was performed by Mat Jones. This episode was written & edited by Harrison Foreman.