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The Strangest Birthday Traditions in the World

While we automatically accept the birthday celebrations and traditions that are central to our own culture and lifestyle, it is always interesting to learn more about the ways that birthdays and special holidays are celebrated in other parts of the world.

Christmas is one celebration that is acknowledged and celebrated differently by Christians across the world. In Australia, we commonly accept and follow a range of traditions and symbols such as Christmas trees, acknowledgement of the birth of Christ, the giving of Christmas hampers filled with delicious ‘Christmas-themed’ products and gathering with our loved ones on December 25. Of course, the celebration and tradition of Christmas occurs differently in other parts of the world.

It is a similar situation with birthdays. Birthday rituals differ across the world and here we take a look at some of the traditions in other countries that are quite different to our own:

Canada:  In some parts of Canada, boys and girls who are celebrating their birthdays are set upon by well-wishers who use butter to grease their noses. This tradition is said to effectively grease the person to be so slippery that bad luck will not attach to them!

Germany:  The 30th birthday of a single man is supposed to be marked by them sweeping the steps of a church or city hall in some parts of Germany. This meaning behind this tradition is apparently to demonstrate their domestic skills, and they may only complete their sweeping obligation when they are kissed by a woman who is sympathetic to their plight.

United States:  The giving of a ‘smash cake’ is quite the tradition for youngsters in some parts of the US. Essentially, a smash cake is a cake that a toddler (ideally a one-year-old) can dig their hands into and use to make as much mess as they desire. This is a joy for the child, but less pleasant for the parent left to clean up the mess!

Brazil:  Brazilian children are likely to experience some lovely birthday traditions, such as being given exquisitely beautiful lollies shaped like fruits and vegetables. These sweets are so divine that children leave them for a little while before consuming them. However, children in Brazil are also subjected to the slightly strange birthday tradition of having their earlobes pulled once for each year of their life.

Denmark:  The flying of a flag from a window is one of the proud ways that a birthday is shown and celebrated in Denmark. Children in Denmark also delight in waking to find that presents surround their bed!

However, a male who is not married by the time he reaches his 30th birthday is referred to as a ‘pepper man’ while an unmarried 30-year-old woman is called a ‘pepper maid’. The birthdays of these people are marked with friends giving the person a pepper mill or a pepper shaker. While this may be a useful (albeit offensive) gift, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that the birthday boy or girl would prefer a more delicious gift, such as a gift basket, or something that is more reflective of their personal tastes and interests.

Nepal:  A particular blend of rice yoghurt and colour is mixed and put on the head of a child celebrating his or her birthday in Nepal. While this concoction may seem somewhat strange to others, it is used to bestow good fortune on the child.

Birthday celebrations originated in Europe in ancient times and began as a way to eliminate and drive away evil spirits that were thought to be directing their attention to a person celebrating their birthday. The practice of giving and receiving gifts (with which we are so familiar) follows from this.

Birthdays are acknowledged and celebrated differently in different parts of the world and it is interesting to learn how a person’s birth is celebrated in countries that are geographically far and culturally different to our own.