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Venerable Birthday Tradition

When packing for college, the first thing on your mind is likely not about celebrating your birthday. However, months later, as the inevitable birthday approaches, you may actually start to wonder what a birthday looks like without the friends and family you’ve likely spent every year with. Thankfully, at Caltech, there are many opportunities to make sure that a birthday away is just as good, if not better, than the one at home. One example is the Venerable house birthday tradition.

It was late October, and I was falling asleep on the bus on the way back from a soccer game when I was jolted awake by a text on my phone. It was from one of my hall-mates asking me whether I knew about the Venerable birthday tradition. I had been living on-campus for a few months, so I had experienced a few birthdays in the house. However, this would be the first time the birthday was someone I knew, so I would actually have to play a role in the celebration.

Coincidentally, three people I knew had their birthday on October 23. One was my roommate, another a hall-mate, and the third was one of my soccer teammates. Thus, I was entrusted with triple responsibility for the celebration.

The first job for celebrating a birthday is secretly baking a cake. Luckily, I went through a bit of a “Cupcake Wars phase” in middle school and started a two-person baking club with my friend, so I knew this task would be a piece of cake.

For two of the birthday girls it would be their 21st birthday, so we decided to theme the cake decorations around reaching the legal drinking age. However, due to soccer’s “dry-season” policy, my soccer teammate was not allowed to drink. Thus, for her decoration, we had to both celebrate reaching legality, while simultaneously making sure to discourage drinking. The final products are shown below (we made a plain cake for my roommate unrelated to 21).

The second part of the birthday tradition is kidnapping. At midnight on the day of the person’s birthday, the house librarian must run around the house screaming “Birthday in 1.5! Birthday in 1.5!” For reference, 1.5 is a hangout spot between alleys one and two in the house. At that cue, I was supposed to “kidnap” my roommate and soccer teammate and bring them to 1.5 for the celebration. To “kidnap” I threw a blanket over both of their heads, spun them in a few circles to add some extra confusion, and dragged the birthday girls to the meeting spot. There, everyone in the house sang happy birthday, candles were blown out, and the cake was eaten.

So, if you are worried about having to celebrate your birthday away from home, just know that there is a family here to support you and make sure that you will not be alone.

Juni Polansky ’25

Hi I’m Juni, a junior from Baltimore, MD. I am majoring in bioengineering and minoring in English. I play on the women’s soccer team and run on the track team. In my free time, I like to read, play guitar, and paint.