My family is obsessed with the Olympics right now, and we have spent a good amount of time in front of the TV this week cheering for our champions, while simultaneously learning a lot about other cultures and countries around the world. Many of the athletes have celebrated a birthday while competing and it’s been interesting to learn a little about international birthday traditions. I did a little more research on my own and found some fascinating facts about how birthdays are celebrated around the world.
In Russia, children receive birthday presents from their teacher and classmates. Also, pie is more popular than cake when it comes to the celebration confection.
In Australia, it’s customary for the birthday child to feast on fairy bread, a sweet snack of buttered bread topped with coloured sprinkles.
In Brazil, homes are decorated with brightly coloured paper flowers and the family members pull the earlobes of the birthday boy/girl as many times as needed to represent each year being celebrated.
In Germany, children get to skip homework and chores on their birthday, and the dining table is decorated with a wooden wreath fitted with candles, which are lit each year until the child turns 12.
In Denmark, presents are placed at the end of a child’s bed so they can see them as soon as they wake in the morning. Also, a flag is flown outside the house to indicate someone inside is celebrating a birthday.
In Israel, the birthday child wears a crown made from leaves and/or flowers, and sits in a chair decorated with streamers while guests dance around the chair singing.
In China, the sixth birthday is cause for a big celebration, and it’s considered bad luck to give someone a clock/watch for their birthday. Also, people believe that tigers protect children so family members bring gifts of clothing or toys decorated with tigers. When a Chinese girl or boy turns one year old, an assortment of objects and toys are placed on the floor around the child, and according to ancient beliefs, the object that the child chooses to play with is a symbol foreshadowing the profession he or she will pursue in life.
Do you have any unusual birthday traditions in your family? Does anyone remember birthday ‘spankings’, and does that ritual still exist?