Birthdays Around the World

birthday party

George Meredith said, “Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” Birthdays are a good time for us to think about our past year and things we have accomplished and also look forward to what the future holds. It is fun to gather with family and friends to celebrate another year of your life and they are celebrated worldwide in different ways. It can be interesting to learn about different cultures and what they do for birthdays. Read below to learn about China, Mexico, France, India and Spain’s birthday celebrations! 

How are birthdays celebrated in China?
Chinese birthday celebration

The Chinese do not celebrate birthdays as often as the rest of the world does. In fact, celebrating birthdays is usually saved for infants and the elderly. When babies are born, they are considered to be one year old already. So, technically, their first birthday is celebrated on their second birthday. When it’s their first birthday, parents sometimes put different symbolic items around the child to predict their future. For example, if a baby reaches for money then they might become wealthy as an adult or if they reach for a toy airplane then they might become a traveler. 

It’s not very polite to ask and older person’s age upfront, it is better to ask what their Zodiac sign is and then see which years their sign corresponds to. When someone turns 60 or 80, that is cause for a big celebration with a lot of family, friends and food. Many Chinese people do not celebrate any of their birthdays until they are 60 years old. 

There are also certain things that the Chinese do or do not do when it comes to birthdays to avoid any bad luck. Birthdays must be celebrated before or on the actual birth date; celebrating after the birthday is taboo. Women do not celebrate turning 30, 33, or 66 because the age of 30 is considered a year of unpredictability and risk. Men usually skip their 40th birthday because that age is considered uncertain and dangerous. 

When it comes to the actual celebration, the person whose birthday it is traditionally slurps long noodles to symbolize a long life. Family members who cannot be at the party will slurp noodles on their in honor of the birthday to help bring a long life to the birthday boy or girl. There might also be hard-boiled eggs dyed red as a symbol of joy and dumplings for good luck. 

How are birthdays celebrated in Mexico?
mexican flag birthday

Mexico has a few very unique birthday traditions. One of the more widely known traditions is “la mordida,” when the birthday boy or girl’s face is shoved into the cake for them to take the first bite after everyone sings. While their face is being shoved into the cake, everyone shouts around them, “Mordida! Mordida! Mordida!” This word typically means “bribe” but in this case it means “taking a bite.” 

Instead of the typical “Happy Birthday” song, they sing, “Las Mañanitas” which means, “The Little Mornings.” This song describes how beautiful the morning is in which they sing to the birthday boy or girl. It use to only be sung in the morning but nowadays it can be sung at any time.  

A typical celebration has a lot of food, drink and a piñata. The piñata symbolizes happiness which is why it is normally decorated in bright colors and filled with candies and small toys. While people take turns hitting the piñata to break it open, everyone watching sings The Piñata Song. 

There is also the big 15th birthday celebration called, “La Quinceañera.” When a girl turns 15, she gets dressed up in fancy clothes, jewelry and makeup and is thrown a big party. There is usually a Thanksgiving mass where she is accompanied by her parents at an altar and they commemorate her womanhood. 

How are birthdays celebrated in France?
French bridge

Bon anniversaire! Most birthday parties take place at home rather than going somewhere else. Birthdays are usually celebrated on the birth date. However, children’s birthday parties are usually celebrated on a Wednesday afternoon. French children usually go to school on Wednesday mornings so they have time to celebrate after school. Or they celebrate on Saturday afternoons.  

There are usually light snacks but the cake is definitely the highlight of the party. They usually stick with simple, homemade cake that is decorated with fruits, flowers, nuts, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. However, it is not unheard of to buy a cake from a store or a bakery but that is usually saved for very special occasions.  

When it comes to gifts, they are expected but it does not have to be something really expensive. For children, toys and books are always good. For adults, gourmet cholates or goods, home décor, a book, or flowers (for women) are usually safe gifts to give. 

How are birthdays celebrated in India?
Indian temple

The birthday usually starts with a visit to a temple with their parents and are blessed. They go in the morning because that is the time that the gods are considered to be the most active. Prayers and blessings of good fortune are offered. Children attend the temple in the morning with their parents and then are gifted with new, colorful clothes to wear to school instead of the usual uniform. They also give out candy to their classmates at school.  

At home, prayers are usually given again and led by the eldest female member of the family. A prayerful ceremony of light is performed and the plate is rotated around the birthday boy or girl and blessings are given. During the prayer, colored powder is placed on the birthday boy or girl’s forehead. Then the celebrating is bigger and better. There is usually a big dinner party with traditional Indian food and dessert. However, the dessert is traditionally eaten first. Sometimes, these parties will keep you up all night with dancing and celebrating.  

Then there is the feeding of the birthday cake. After ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung, the birthday boy or girl will cut into the cake first and then feed it to each guest by hand. After the birthday boy or girl feeds all the guests, the guests all take turns feeding the birthday boy or girl. Sometimes this ends with people’s faces getting smashed with cake. 

How are birthdays celebrated in Spain?
Spanish coast

Spaniards loving throwing parties and honoring tradition and family is very important to them. Birthdays do not even have to be tied to the specific birth date; sometimes a birthday can be celebrated for months or just for a weekend. They invite everyone over and laugh, tell jokes, sing “Feliz Cumpleaños” and a lot of hugs go around. It is also tradition that the guests snap the birthday boy or girl on the forehead with the finger for as many times as how old they are turning. 

Children celebrate their birthdays by going to school and sharing treats with their classmates. The birthday boy or girl gets to sit in the front row of the class all day and gets to wear a special party hat. They usually have a birthday cake and blow out the candles. They are usually gifted with books, toys and candies.

Related Article: How to Remember Birthdays