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Birthday traditions around the world – Not quite for all

Happy Birthday to you!

Don’t regret another birthday. You can celebrate it. In China it could be bad-luck year

HAPPY WORLD. At least we all have something in common – every one of the 7.5 billion people living on planet earth. Once a year we all have a birthday. It´s Happy Birthday around the world, but we don´t celebrate it in the same way. In China, some birthdays are skipped because they’re considered bad-luck years.

When another year has passed, it´s a new reason to celebrate. We do it differently with gift and good wishes. This one is considered one of the best in the world – a message with a hearty dose of good vibes. “Live your life with smiles, not tears. Beat your age with friends and not years. Happy Birthday!»

The start of birthdays

Like many others ancient traditions, celebrating birthdays started with the Egyptians. Academics who study the Bible say that the earliest mention of a birthday was around 3,000 B.C.E. It was in reference to a Pharaoh’s birthday.

Today the Egyptians celebrate by dancing and singing. Arabic birthdays are symbolized as life and growth with lot of fruit along flowers on their parties.
In modern Spanish they say “Feliz cumpleanos”, and among plenty of funny quotes: “Happy birthday, bud. Enjoy your Facebook wall filled with messages from people you don´t talk to.”

Chinese celebrate “Long Noodles” for a long life to come. And they are eating noodles
Chinese celebrate “Long Noodles” for a long life to come. And they are eating noodles

China is different

Some Chinese celebrate, others don´t. Most people are given a cake for their birthday with candles on top of the cake – and Happy Birthday to You is sung. In China young people don´t celebrate birthdays, while some families celebrate birthdays of the grandparents. And some have two birthdays as a result of two calendric system, one birthday in each calendar.

Some Chinese celebrate “Long Noodles” for a long life to come. Yes, they are eating a plate of long noodles – slurping them in as fast as possible.

Boy at party hitting pinata with stick in Mexico
Boy at party hitting pinata with stick in Mexico

Birthday Traditions

 Some cultures have long-standing traditional ways to celebrate that don’t involve cakes and a sugar rush. Some religions don´t celebrate, such as Jehovah´s Witnesses.

Regardless of age, in Jamaica they think dousing their friends with flour is fun. Traditions calls for the boy or girl to be coated with flour, at a party or as part of an ambush.
In Mexico they have the most fun tradition for children; A birthday Pinata filled with candy. To play the pinata game you blindfold the first child in line, gently spin them around three times, and give them a wooden stick so they can hit the pinata.

in Jamaica they think dousing their friends with flour is fun
In Jamaica they think dousing their friends with flour is fun

Bumping the child

In Germany you might celebrate at a bar or pub. The traditions is that you buy the drinks for your friends on your birthday, unlike in the US where it is the other way around.

I´m sure many of the practices are more hypothetical than a reality, such as this one. A tradition In Ireland is “bumping” the birthday child. The poor child is held upside down and “bumped” on the floor, once for every year plus one for good luck. I guess the Irish had a few whisky when coming up with this one.

Normally Irish Birthday Wishes are sincere with a bit of humor as well. Such as this one: “It is better to spend money like there´s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there´s no money.”

Japan Birthday Traditions

In Japan parents organize normally a small gathering, serving white sponge with cream. The number of candles depend on the age of the boy or girl is turning.

In the warm Australia it makes sense to take the festivities outdoors, and that include barbecues. Children eat a dish called fairy bread, a bread with butter and covered with sugar candy sprinkles. Another typical cake is served with candles.

Birthday in Brazil is serious and often extravagant affairs. No party is complete without dessert and candy table and at least one cake to share. The birthday person chop the first piece of cake, but doesn’t keep it for himself. Instead, he gives this piece to an important person in his life like his mom or dad.

Some born great

William Shakespeare said this about birthdays: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, and soon most Christians were celebrating Christ´s birth on December 25.
Of the most popular leaders of all time, Julius Caesar was born 13 July 100 BC. The French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte born 15 August 1769. President Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, and prime minister Winston Churchill 30 November 1874.

Good luck – bad luck

From eating long noodles, there are some traditions around the world may take you by surprise.
An old German tradition for men who were still single on their 30th birthday was to sweep the steps of city hall while dressed in drag. Fortunately, it´s been modernized a bit since then.
In Greece and Germany, it´s considered bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday before the exact day, or to  celebrate a birthday early.

To say Happy birthday in German: Alles Gute zum Geburstag! In French: Bon anniversaire! In Spanish: Feliz cumpleanos! Swedish: Grattis på fødelsedagen! Portuguese: Feliz Aniversário! Spanish: Feliz cumpleanno!

Happy day in Vietnam

Vietnam is the country where women don´t shake hands with each other or with men. Here everyone celebrates birthday on New Year´s Day – the day they mention as “tet”. Vietnamese tradition is that the actual day of birth is not to be acknowledged. Rather, people become a year older every year at tet.

A sensible quote about birthdays: “Don’t regret another birthday, the good news is that you are alive and can celebrate it.”

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya online travel magazine. Meeting people for engaging stories. I´m off to uncover the best strategies for long life living. This is part of my venture “Around the World in 80 Lanes” – about travel, run sprint, staying fit! I just want a tiny slice of adventures to feel alive, and then excited to return home.


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