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July 26, 2011 / MMasing

Birthday Traditions around the World.

Hello Everybody,
I was planning to post this post yesterday..
But as you probably already guessed by now.
This didn’t work out due to the stubbornness of my own blog.
It decided to delete my whole post while I was writing…
so I kinda ended up with a blank piece of paper yet again.
Shouldn’t even have started to write then.. well, anyway.
Next shot for this story.. on his way:
Today, or yesterday actually, I wanted to jump into traditionary things again.
With as the subject: Birthdays.
Due to personal circumstances,
(I always wanted to use that line)
I’ve been into the birthday stuff today, what is yesterday now too.
So, birthdays it is.
Birthdays are days were a lot of traditions take his place.
The funny part about this is there are a lot of traditions over the whole world.
Some traditions are quite similar, like the birthday candles carrying wishes up to God,
though some traditions are more specific to certain countries.
So, lets put some countries with traditions in line for you:
In Africa they don’t have real birthdays.
Instead, they have initiation ceremonies.
Initiation ceremonies are some sort of birthdays in
groups of children around the same age.
These children will learn the laws, beliefs dances and other things of their tribes.
In Brazil the birthday person gives the first slice of cake
to their most special friend or relative.


In Canada the birthday child gets his nose greased with butter or margarine.
The greased nose makes the child too slippery for bad luck
to catch them hoping to bring luck that way.
In Denmark a flag is flown outside a  window to designate
that someone who lives in that house is  having a birthday.
Presents are placed around the child’s bed while they are sleeping
so they will see them immediately upon  awakening.
Kinda like Christmas with Santa, isn’t it?
In England the make fortune-telling cakes on birthdays.
They mix symbolic objects into the birthday cake as it’s being prepared.
Each object symbolizes something different, for an example:
If your piece of cake has a coin in it, then you will be rich.
In Germany a member of the birthday person’s family wakes up at sunrise
and lights the candles on the birthday cake.
There are as many candles as the years of age of the birthday person,
plus one for good luck. The candles are left burning all day long.
After dinner that night then everyone sings the birthday song
and the birthday person blows out the candles.
If all of the candles are blown out in one try then the wish
of the birthday person will come true.
In the Netherlands special year birthdays such as:
5, 10, 15, 20, 21. Are called  “crown” years.
The birthday person receives an especially large gift on a crown year birthday.
The family also decorates the birthday child’s chair at the dining room table
with seasonal flowers or paper streamers, paper flowers and balloons.
At school the birthday child can give their classmates something to
eat and the teacher makes the child a birthday hat,
often made of paper streamers or paper flowers.
The birthday child is put on a chair in front of the class
when all his/her classmates sing a birthday song.
In Ireland the birthday child is  lifted upside down and “bumped”
on the floor for good  luck. The number of bumps given is the age
of the child plus one, for extra good luck.
In Japan the birthday child wears entirely new clothes to mark the occasion.
Certain birthdays are  more important than others and these
are celebrated with a visit  to the local shrine.
In Korea there is big family party on the first birthday.
The table is set with food, and four items;
a pencil, a ruler, thread, and money.
The baby chooses one item to forecast their  future;
excellent student, good with hands, long life or riches.
In Latvia the birthday person sits in a chair and friends
and family lift the chair one time for each year.
The traditional birthday cake is a yellow cake  called “klingeris”.
In Mexico they have the well-known piñata,
usually made out of paper mache and in the form of an animal,
filled with goodies  and hung from the ceiling.
The birthday child is blindfolded and  hits the piñata until it is cracked open.
All the children share  the goodies. The song “Las Mananitas” is sung.
In Norway the birthday child stands out  in front of their class and chooses a friend
to share a little  dance while the rest of the class sings a happy birthday song.
Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico the birthday child gets tapped on the arm for each birth year.
A big party which includes a formal dinner is held.
In Russia the don’t have birthday cakes, instead of a birthday cake many Russian childs
receive a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.
In Scotland a pound note is given for every year old the child is,
plus an additional pound for good luck.
United States.
In the U.S.A a cake is  made, and candles are put on top based on how old the person is.
Then everyone sings the “happy birthday” song, and at  the end of the song,
the birthday child blows out the candles. If  they blow them all out with one blow,
their birthday wishes will  come true.
In Vietnam you have “Tet”.
Tet is the beginning of a New Year and also it’s everyone’s birthday.
The Vietnamese do not know or acknowledge the exact day they were born.
A baby turns one on Tet no matter when he/she was born that year.
Children say they were born in the year of the symbol of the lunar calendar for that year.
Well, that’s my list for now.
As you see not every country has the same traditions looked at birthdays.
Though they are similarities clearly visible.
Was your country in this short list?
Prefer another tradition then your own?
Comment, and let me know.
Now, think about this being deleted after you finished it…
Indeed, bet now you come close to how I felt yesterday…


Leave a Comment
  1. Anders J / Aug 2 2011 10:40 am

    Hmm, maybe i can fill up details with the norwegian tradition 🙂

    well, it’s not usual to dance a dance with someone in front of the class, tho maybe it was a tradision before cus (one of) the songs says: …look around in the ring, for who you’s want, dance a little dance with the one you’d rather want… which may hint to that tradition 😛
    tho, not usual anymore
    instead in class it’s normal (atleast in the lower grades) to bring cake or jelly or ice cream to the class when you have birthday 🙂 tho people slowly stop doing it as time goes
    it’s still usual that everyone sing the birthday song in class, tho how it happens is kinda different, some classes everyone stands up while the brithday child stays seated, some classes the birthday child stands up while everyone stays seated and in some classes the birthday child gets up on the table so everyone can see him/her 😛

    we usually hang a flag outside to show that someone in the house has birthday :p
    we have a cake with the same number of candles as the age of the one who has birthday it comes as the family sings one of the birthday songs, you can wish something as you blow them out, and if you don’t blow them all out, the number of candles left is the same as the many persons you are in love with (tho this is more of a joke than a tradision)
    we often go out to get a nice dinner when someone has birthday
    when someone has birthday their family (only parents and siblings (and gf/bf if they live close or stay over)) wakes them up with a birthday song and presents on the bed, often they bring a slice of a cake too 🙂

    usually we celebrate it later with 1 or 2 parties, one for friends to have fun, and one for family to gather 🙂

    • MMasing / Aug 2 2011 5:07 pm

      Thanks for filling me in on the “up-to-date” traditions of the Norwegian birthdays.
      Obviously, like you already figured out by now, I’m not from any Scandinavian country, so..
      I could use some help there :).
      Thank you.
      Greetz, MMasing.

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