Birthdays are a glorious highlight of childhood, and for many children, the most treasured day of the year.
I’ll never forget that deeply gratifying feeling of celebrating my birthday as a kid. The excitement and anticipation as my birthday approached. A whole day that existed solely to celebrate me! Bringing cupcakes to class to share with friends, opening gifts, blowing out the candles on a cake my mother made.
And then, some point about halfway between childhood and adulthood, I remember realizing that it seemed like birthdays were suddenly becoming less and less revered with each new year, and thinking to myself that they should always be celebrated with the same zest as they were in years past. After all, the process of life is a miraculous experience that deserves to be celebrated, right!?
Later on, after giving birth to my little girl, I went full circle while realizing that so many rewarding feelings of motherhood come from getting to relive those pure, childhood joys again through our own children. Their excitement is contagious, their passion overflows, their happiness becomes yours too. What little blessings our little ones are!
So, here’s to helping our children celebrate their golden years of youth to their heart’s content!
Here are some fun ways children around the world celebrate their birthdays. Read along with your little ones so that they can learn about these unique cultural traditions, and talk about your favorite ones. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try some of them out at home the next time someone is celebrating a birthday!
Australia— Australian children enjoy a particularly colorful and fun birthday tradition: fairybread! They celebrate their special day by slathering pieces of bread with butter and rainbow-colored sprinkles in lieu of cake. What a magical treat!
Ghana— Ghanaian children wake up to a special treat called “oto.” It’s a fried patty made from mashed sweet potatoes and eggs. In the evenings, they have a family gathering where everyone eats a meaty stew with rice and pieces of fried plantains.
Nigerian— Adults and children alike look forward to a delicious traditional birthday dinner of “Jollof rice,” rice with tomatoes, coconut milk, red peppers, cassava, and onions.
Sudan— Sudanese children start each new year of their lives with a homemade, delicious, and healthy red juice called “karkady.” It is simply made by boiling hibiscus flowers and adding honey, it’s served chilled or over ice.
New Zealand— Kids in New Zealand celebrate with friends and family. The group gathers around a cake, where the birthday child is sung the traditional “Happy Birthday” song, and then at the end, the birthday girl or boy receives one clap for each year they have been alive!
Denmark— In Denmark, wrapped presents are placed around the child’s bed while they are sleeping so that they get to wake up surrounded by gifts! What a nice thing to wake up to!
Britain— It is an old British tradition to mix a coin into the birthday-cake batter. Then when the family are gathered round eating the cake, the one who finds the coin in their piece is believed to get good fortune for the rest of the year!
Lithuania— In Lithuania, the birthday boy or girl sits in a chair decorated in colorful garlands, bows, and strings while their loved ones sing the birthday song to them. After the birthday song is finished, each adult family member lifts them off the chair for a hug! (how sweet!)
Norway— In Norway, the birthday child stands at the front of the classroom at school, and chooses a partner from the classroom to do a little dance with while the rest of the class sings a happy birthday song! A traditional Norse birthday cake is also served, it’s typical chocolate chocolate with chocolate frosting, served with little dishes of red gelatin covered in a vanilla sauce! A popular birthday party activity in Norway is to go “fishing for ice-cream!” where everyone pulls up strings from a big bucket, to which frozen treats are attached. Yum!
Russian— Children in Russia don’t typically have birthday cakes, instead they receive traditional birthday pies that come with a nice birthday greeting carved into the crust! Birthday parties usually involve a mishmash of different activities and games. A clothesline is normally featured at parties, with many different prizes hanging down from the line for the winners of the games to take home with them.
Mexico— The Mexican piñata tradition is so much fun that tons of Americans have adopted it too! Having a piñata at every kids birthday party is an absolute must in Mexico. They usually come in the form of an animal or object, and are made from colorful paper mache. After being stuffed full of goodies, pinatas hang from a tree branch while the birthday child and their guests all take turns hitting it while blindfolded until all the goodies spill out!
Brazil— In Brazil, children look forward to eating special candies shaped like fruits and vegetables, these candies are reserved for birthday children only. Brigadeiros, yummy bite sized chocolates are also served with cute sprinkles.
Germany— In Germany, children don’t have to do any chores or homework on their birthdays. In the evenings, they celebrate with their families by blowing out candles, eating cake, and opening presents.
India— In India, kids are given new clothes to wear on their birthdays. They put on their new outfit straightaway on the morning of their birthday, and later get to eat a special meal with their family.
Jamaica— Jamaicans must have an awfully good sense of humor, it’s the only thing that explains why their birthday tradition is taking turns throwing handfuls of flour at the birthday child. It’s all in good fun!
Vietnam— Rather than everyone celebrating their own individual days of birth, children and adults in Vietnam are all collectively considered another year older on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year which falls each January or February. Tet can also be considered the national "birthday" of everyone, because that is how it is celebrated!