The cake is ordered. The 180 candles are counted and ready to be lit. For the handful of phillumenists in India, April 7 is a big day. It's the 180th birthday of the 'light of their life' - the matchbox.
Way back in 1827, John Walker produced sulphureted peroxide strikeables which were a yard long. Though not very user-friendly, they were the first form of the matchstick ever made.
Commemorating the birth of the matchbox, phillumenists - those who collect matchboxes - like Krishna Chandra Rastogi will be celebrating this day with great gusto in the collector's home in Goarkhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Talking to IANS, Rastogi, 75, said: "It's the 180th birthday of the matchbox and as it happens, I have matchboxes and matchbox labels from exactly 180 countries! Other than celebrating this occasion at home, I will also exhibit my collection".
A two times Limca Book of Records holder - in 1992 and 1993 - Rastogi's collection has matchbox labels from countries like America, France, Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Germany, among others. Similarly, Anuradha Gupta, a teacher and the only woman phillumenist to have featured in the Limca Book of Records in 1993, is also celebrating the occasion with her family and friends.
"From decorating the house with streamers and balloons to getting a cake, complete with the 180 candles, I'm doing everything to celebrate the matchbox's birthday. I have also invited my neighbours, friends and family to join in the celebrations," she said.
With a collection of more than 30,000 matchboxes, Gupta's romance with matchboxes dates back to her childhood. What started as a hobby, took a more serious turn when she started getting acclaim for her work.
Another of her creations is a huge framed picture of Ganesha, which is made of 80,000 matchsticks and around a million beads. "It took me six months to make it," she said.