Global Birthday Traditions

Some birthday traditions are similar in many parts of the world — birthday cakes, candles, cards, and parties. Other traditions are more specific to particular countries. Check out some special birthday customs for children in Africa, Holland, Israel, and elsewhere.

Birthday Cakes
Some say the tradition of birthday cakes began with the ancient Greeks, who used to take cakes — round to represent the full moon — to the temple of their goddess of the moon, Artemis. Others contend the tradition began in Germany, where Geburtstagorten, a special cake the Germans were known for, was used for birthday celebrations.

Birthday Candles
The Greeks were said to have placed candles on the birthday cakes to make them look as if they were glowing like the moon, when offering them up to the goddess, Artemis. The Germans — who were skilled candlemakers — also placed candles on their cakes, but for religious reasons.

Birthday Cards
The tradition of sending birthday cards started in England about 100 years ago. Originally cards were often sent as an "apology" when a person couldn't visit somebody in person. Today we often send birthday cards even if we can!

Birthday Parties
The earliest birthday parties in history were held because people thought that evil spirits would visit them on their birthdays. They stayed close to their family and friends for protection. Later parties became social gatherings where friends and family would bring gifts or flowers to the person having their birthday.

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Special Celebrations in...

  • Africa
    Initiation Ceremonies. Certain nations in Africa hold ceremonies for groups of children. The children learn the laws, customs, and beliefs of the tribe.

  • Argentina
    Earlobe Tugs. Children receive a pull on their earlobe for each year.

  • China
    Noodles for Lunch. Friends and relatives are invited to lunch; noodles are served to wish the child a long life. In addition, the child receives money from both parents.

  • Denmark
    Flying Flags. A flag is flown outside a window to designate that someone inside is enjoying a birthday. Presents are placed around children's beds while sleeping.

  • Ecuador
    Pink Dresses. When a girl turns 15, there's a great celebration. She puts on a pink dress and her first pair of high heels and dances the waltz with her father. Fourteen girls and fourteen boys pair up and dance the waltz alongside them.

  • England
    Fortune Telling Cakes. Certain symbolic objects are mixed into the birthday cake as it's being prepared. If you uncover a coin in your cake, it's foretelling of future riches.

  • Holland
    Crown Years. Even (2, 4, 6, etc.) birthday years are called "crown years." The child receives an especially large gift on the special crown year birthdays. In addition, the family decorates the child's chair with flowers.

  • India
    Colored Dresses and Chocolates. At school birthday parties, the child wears a colored dress and passes out chocolates to their classmates.

  • Ireland
    Birthday Bumps. The birthday child is lifted upside down and "bumped" on the floor for good luck. The child receives a bump for every year—and one extra for good luck.

  • Israel
    Chair Raising. The child sits in a chair while the family raises and lowers it, corresponding to the child's age, with one extra for good luck.

  • Japan
    New Clothes. The birthday child wears entirely new clothes to mark the occasion.

  • Mexico
    Pinatas and Mass. A pinata is filled with goodies and hung from the ceiling. While blindfolded, children take turns hitting it until it's cracked open. Also, when a girl turns 15 in Mexico, a special mass is held to honor her.

  • Norway
    Birthday Day. The birthday child stands in front of the class and chooses a friend to dance with while the class sings the happy birthday song.

  • Philippines
    Cakes and Noodles. Birthday cakes are baked in various shapes and sizes. The celebration includes noodles — representing a long life — balloon decorations, and pinatas.

  • Russia
    Birthday Pies. Instead of a birthday cake, the child receives a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.

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Here at Home
As always, FTD.COM has an assortment of birthday gift ideas for everyone on your list!

Source: kidsparties.com

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