International Birthday Customs

USA

A cake is baked and a number of candles to match the person’s age is placed on top. Happy Birthday is sung as the cake is brought out to the birthday girl or boy who makes a wish and blows them all out. Superstition says that if you tell anyone your wish or take more than one breath to blow out the candles, your wish will not come true. Milestone birthdays like 18 – the legal age of adulthood, 21 – the drinking/gambling age, 30, 40, etc. merit special attention. The birthdays of famous American heroes as celebrated as national holidays, such as: Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington.

Canada

The birthday child often has his nose greased so that bad luck cannot stick to them during the course of the year. Birthday cakes are important – they are often baked with a coin inside; if you find the coin you get the first try at the party games. Prizes often include party crackers with a toy or fortune inside.

China

The whole family is invited for a birthday lunch of long noodles – to symbolize a long life. Children receive money from their parents. On their first birthday, family members place toys and objects on the ground around the baby and whichever toy the baby picks foreshadows their future profession. Tigers are symbols of good luck, so anything with a tiger on it makes a great birthday gift.

England

A cake is baked with coins and small candies and whoever gets the pieces with the toys will have good luck. Sending birthday cards is a tradition that started over a hundred years ago in England and now is used all over the world.

India

Children wear a colored dress and pass out chocolates to their class.

Japan

Children wear a brand new outfit on their birthday.

Mexico

Children are blindfolded and swat a piñata hanging from the ceiling. When it is cracked open, candy and toys explode out. On a girl’s 15th birthday a HUGE celebration called a quinceañera takes place.

Netherlands

The person who is celebrating their birthday prepares their own birthday cake and party and invites all their friends.

South Africa

The 21st birthday is of tremendous significance in this culture. A key made of silver, gold or aluminum foil is given, by the mother or father, to signify the unlocking of their future.

Vietnam

The Vietnamese do not know or celebrate individual birthdays, instead everyone celebrates on New Year’s Day (Tet). Children receive red envelopes with money.


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