The tradition of birthday parties started in Europe a long time ago. It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays. To protect them from harm, friends and family would to come be with the birthday person and bring good thoughts and wishes. Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits. This is how birthday parties began.
At first it was only kings who were recognized as important enough to have a birthday celebration (maybe this is how the tradition of birthday crowns began?). As time went by, children became included in birthday celebrations. The first children's birthday parties occurred in Germany and were called Kinderfeste.
Africa - Initiation Ceremonies. In various African nations they hold initiation ceremonies for groups of children instead of birthdays. When children reach a certain designated age, they learn the laws, beliefs, customs, songs and dances of their tribes.
Bolivia - Dance the waltz and wear white. At the age of 16 the birthday girl wears a white dress and dances the waltz with her father and other boys.
Brazil - Pulls on the earlobe. The birthday child receives a pull on the earlobe for each year they have been alive. The birthday person also gives the first slice of cake to his/her most special friend or relative, usually mom or dad. At the age of 15, the girl dances a waltz with staring with her father and grandfather. She dances with a total of 15 partners each symbolizing a year of her life.
Canada - Greasing the nose with butter or margarine. In Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland) the birthday child is ambushed and their nose is greased for good luck. The greased nose makes the child too slippery for bad luck to catch them. This tradition is reputed to be of Scottish decent. Birthday punches. In Quebec the birthday person receives a punch for each year they are alive and then one for good luck.
Happy Birthday Wishes
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China - Noodles for Lunch. The birthday child pays respect to his/her parents and receives a gift of money. Friends and relatives are invited to lunch and noodles are served to wish the birthday child a long life.
Denmark - Flying Flags. A flag is flown outside a window to designate that someone who lives in that house is having a birthday. Presents are placed around the child's bed while they are sleeping so they will see them immediately upon awakening.
Ecuador - Pink Dress. When a girl turns 15 there is a great celebration and the girl wears a pink dress. The father puts on the birthday girls first pair of high heels and dances the waltz with her while 14 maids and 14 boys also dance the waltz.
England - Fortune Telling Cakes and Bumps. Certain symbolic objects are mixed into the birthday cake as it being prepared. If your piece of cake has a coin in it, then you will be rich. Also, when its your birthday your friends give you the "bumps" they lift you in the air by your hands and feet and raise you up and down to the floor, one for each year then one for luck, two for luck and three for the old man's coconut!
Germany - Candles left burning for the day. A member of the birthday person’s family wakes up at sunrise and lights the candles on the birthday cake. There are as many candles as the years of age of the birthday person plus one for good luck. The candles are left burning all day long. After dinner that night then everyone sings the birthday song and the birthday person blows out the candles. If all of the candles are blown out in one try then the wish of the birthday person will come true. Presents are then opened and the party starts.
Germany - Sweeping the stairs of city hall. When men reach the age of 30 and they still don't have a girlfriend that they have to sweep the stairs of the city hall. All there friends will throw rubble on the stairs and when you're finished they'll throw some more rubble there. This way every girl can see that this
man reached the age of 30 and still doesn't have a girlfriend (and that he can clean a house very well!).
A Joyful Birthday Wish !
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Ghana - Special foods. The foods eaten are watche (brown rice and beans), sheto (black pepper), mecko (red pepper), red rice with corn beef and fufu (pounded yam and cassava).
Guyana - Special dishes. Chicken, duck or lamb curry with rice are the main dishes at the birthday celebration. A family member usually bakes a fruit, black or sponge for the birthday boy/girl to cut. The person celebrating their birthday will wear something fancy.
Holland - Crown Years. Special year birthdays such as 5, 10, 15, 20, 21 are called "crown" years. The birthday child receives an especially large gift on a crown year birthday. The family also decorates the birthday child's chair at the dining room table with seasonal flowers or paper streamers, paper flowers and balloons. At school the birthday child can give their classmates something to eat and the teacher makes the child a birthday hat, often made of paper streamers or paper flowers.
Hungary - Candy to school. The birthday child brings candy to school to give to their classmates.
India - Colored dress and chocolates. At school the birthday child wears a colored dress and passes out chocolates to the entire class, with the help of a trusted friend.
Ireland - Birthday Bumps. The birthday child is lifted upside down and "bumped" on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps given is the age of the child plus one for extra good luck.
Israel - Chair Raising. A small child sits in a chair while grown-ups raise and lower it a number of times corresponding to the child's age, plus one for good luck.
A Birthday Delight
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Italy - Pulling ears. The child's ears are pulled as many times as how old they are turning.
Japan - New Clothes. The birthday child wears entirely new clothes to mark the occasion. Certain birthdays are more important than others and these are celebrated with a visit to the local shrine.
Mexico - Piñatas. The piñata, usually made out of paper mache and in the form of an animal, is filled with goodies and hung from the ceiling. The birthday child is blindfolded and hits the piñata until it is cracked open. All the children share the goodies. The song Las Mananitas is sung. Also, when a daugher is 15, the birthday is celebrated with a special mass in her honor. A party is then given to introduce her to everyone as a young woman. The father dances a waltz with her.
Nepal -Mark on the forehead. A certain mixture of rice yogurt and color is placed on the birthday child's forehead for good luck.
New Zealand - Birthday claps. After the birthday cake is lit, the happy birthday song is sung loudly and often out of tune and then the person birthday person receives a clap for each year they have been alive and then one for good luck.
Philippines - Mixture of East and West. Birthday cakes are baked in various sizes and shapes. The celebration includes noodles representing long life, balloon decorations and pinatas. Earlier in the day the family goes to hear Mass and to thank God.
Russia - Birthday Pies. Instead of a birthday cake, many Russian child receive a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.
United States - Cake, candles and song. A cake is made, and candles are put on top based on how old the person is. Then everyone sings the "happy birthday" song, and at the end of the song, the birthday child blows out the candles. If they blow them all out with one blow, their birthday wishes will come true.