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Birthday traditions from around the world

Everyone has their own special birthday traditions. Some of us always have the same cake, while others might have a favourite restaurant they visit each year. But how do people around the world celebrate their birthdays?

Birthday traditions


In Vietnam, all birthdays are celebrated on Tết, which is their New Year’s Day. On the day, parents, close friends and other relatives congratulate children on becoming a year older by presenting them with red envelopes that contain “lucky money”. The Vietnamese tradition is that the actual day of birth is not to be acknowledged. Instead, people become a year older all together on that one day.

I’m not sure if I’d like sharing my birthday… or my cake. But I suppose it’s more reason to celebrate!


In Korea, the first hundred days of life are supposedly the most fragile. Only when someone’s got past this will their birth be celebrated. Following this, on a child’s first birthday, they’re dressed in traditional Korean clothes. Boys wear hoods which are customary for young, unmarried men, and girls wear makeup.

They then take part in a “doljanchi” ceremony. The child will have various items placed in front of them (such as money, a pencil, a ruler, and thread). The child then chooses one or two of the items, and the items they pick are meant to reveal their fate for when they grow older. For example, whether or not they’ll be rich, a good student, good with their hands, or if they’ll have a long life.


In China, when a baby’s first born they’re considered to be one year old straight away. Consequently, they’d always be a year older than we’d consider ourselves here (unfortunately, not everyone would see this as an advantage).

Traditionally, long noodles are eaten by the person celebrating their birthday. As the long noodles symbolise longevity, they’re slurped until no more can fit into a person’s mouth before they’re bitten. I do a similar thing with cake on my birthday.


If you’re like me, and you like your spicy food, Mexican is always a great option when you dine out (especially a Chimichanga). Traditional birthday food served at parties in Mexico are tortillas with salsa, taquitos, churros, Mexican rice pudding and caramel flan. Not forgetting a cool margarita to sooth the palate.

And of course, who could forget the internationally recognised birthday tradition – the piñata! The piñata is usually made of papier mâché and decorated in bright colours. They’re filled with sweets and small toys. The guests take turns to hit the piñata, to see who’s lucky enough to break it open.

Piñatas may be a lot of fun but, apparently, they have a religious background. The original shape had seven points – one for each sin. The person doing the hitting is blindfolded (to test their faith) and spun 33 times (for each year of Christ’s life). Once the piñata has been hit and broken, the treats inside are meant to be a reward for keeping the faith against the sins.


Growing up, we all loved decorating cakes and biscuits. Sparkles, food dye, icing pens, silver balls and making a mess in the kitchen. All whilst wearing Mum and Dad’s extra large aprons and a paper chef hat! But in Australia, that enjoyment never really goes away. As well as a good barbie at a birthday, Australians are also known for enjoying a little thing called fairy bread, which is buttered bread covered in hundreds and thousands.

The whole family usually come together to celebrate a birthday, especially a coming-of-age at 21. Like here, this is usually when he or she is given their own key to the house and is trusted to come and go as they please. Fairy bread or key? Key or fairy bread? Fairy bread.


When we were children, you’d sometimes get a pinch and a punch from your friends on your birthday. As you got older, this turned into birthday bumps by your school friends.

Well Hungary have a similar tradition. But instead of getting pinched, punched, or bumped, you have your earlobes pulled, and friends recite a rhyme that translates to “God bless you, live so long so your ears reach your ankles”.

I’m not sure I like either. A simple high-five would suit me fine, thank you!

Although the actual birth days are celebrated with your immediate family members, name days are more popular among friends and colleagues. A name day is a day of the year which is associated with a certain name. For example, everyone who’s name is Vilmos will celebrate their name day on June 25th, as this name is associated with this particular date. Name days originate from the Christian calendar of saints, where people would celebrate the saints day that they shared a name with rather than their actual birthday.


“Happy birthday”
“Chúc mừng sinh nhật”
“생일 축하해요”
“Boldog születésnapot”