Happy Birthday! Boldog születésnapot! Bon anniversaire! जन्मदिन की शुभकामनाएं

Ever wonder how folks around the world celebrate birthdays?  As I approached my own recent birthday, I wondered.

So, I did a little poking around, learned about some fun traditions, and thought of some ways for you to incorporate them at home and at work (see ideas below).

These are only a few of the many types of celebrations. Some are more traditional, some observed more widely than others, with each country, region and family celebrating in their own ways.

  • Argentina – Family members tug on earlobes of the birthday girl/boy’s, once for each year
  • Australia – Children eat “Fairy Bread” (white bread with butter and sugar candy sprinkles!)
  • Brazil – Large, extravagant affairs, elaborate desserts and sweets
  • Canada – Person is ambushed with butter/grease smeared on the noses to ward off bad luck
  • China – “Long Life Noodles” are eaten, long noodle slurps equal a long life
  • Denmark – Danish flag set outside to signal a birthday, presents placed around child’s bed for morning
  • Ecuador – Celebrate on day the saint they were named for was born, just a card on their birthday
  • Egypt – Celebrate with singing and dancing, flower and fruit decorations symbolize life and growth
  • Germany – Children don’t have to do homework or chores, adults buy drinks for friends
  • Ghana – Children are awoken with an “oto” breakfast (fried smashed yam, egg and onion patty)
  • Great Britain – Decorated cake with lighted candles to represent child’s age
  • Holland – “Crown Years” celebrated at age 5, 10, 15, 20, 21, kids enjoy lemonade and hot chocolate
  • Hungary – Saint’s “Name Day” celebrated, earlobe pulling while singing: “God bless you, live so long, so your ears reach your ankles”
  • India – Kids get to where new outfits on their special day
  • Ireland – “Bumping” the birthday child, adult holds child upside down and gently bumps head on floor, once for each year (ouch!)
  • Jamaica – Birthday person is “Antiqued” by throwing flour on them
  • Mexico – Candy-filled paper-mache figure (piñata) is whacked with a stick by a blindfolded birthday boy/girl until it bursts open for party guests
  • New Zealand – Children have “Fairy Bread” there too
  • Nigeria – Large feast and celebrations for years 1, 5, 10, 15
  • Norway – Parties with food, music, dancing and chocolate cake
  • Russia – Kids bring candy to school for classmates
  • USA – Decorated cake with candles and gifts
  • Vietnam – Everyone celebrates at New Year, called “Tet”, individual birthdays not typically celebrated

(Click here for more countries)

Ways to Incorporate Traditions at Home and Work:

  • Do you know someone who is originally from a different country than you’re from? Ask them about their cultural traditions for celebrating birthdays. Do they have a favorite story from their childhood?
  • Do you work on a multicultural team? Try a team building discussion about how each person celebrated their birthday as a child. What was a favorite birthday memory?
  • Try celebrating each person on the team’s birthday with a bit of their country’s tradition. Perhaps trying some new foods, treats or customs.
  • What’s YOUR lineage? Do you have older relatives you can explore traditions with?
  • How about learning and incorporating a new (old) tradition from your lineage into your family celebrations?

Have fun with it!  Let me know what you learned from your conversations. And do send pictures!