Every culture celebrates birthdays and the onset of the next year of life, although there are many differences and variations in how these dates are celebrated. In some countries, a birthday is celebrated with a cake and birthday candles, one for each year of the birthday person's life, welcoming the arrival of the new age. Whilst in other cultures, the celebrants wave the past year away, or pull the ears of the person whose birthday they are gathered for, so that he or she will continue to grow. The natives of some countries celebrate birthdays on the exact date, whilst for others, the celebration is held 9 months earlier, since they consider the date of conception as the true birthday.
Happy Birthday songs around the World...
Two things about birthday celebrations that remain consistent in every culture are songs and greetings; universal ways of honoring and sharing with others the special moment and the joy of the guest of honor. It is very interesting to know what each culture wishes for the birthday celebrant on his or her birthday.
Learn how to say “happy birthday” in different countries around the world. Get surprised, learn and enjoy with songs from many countries.
Not only are the celebration and the traditions interesting, but they are also important moments in life in every culture. So, depending on the culture and on the age of the person being celebrated, particular celebrations are performed. For example, when girls turn 16, the celebration is referred to as “Sweet 16”, and this signals that Anglo-Saxon girls have reached womanhood.
In Mexico and in a great part of Latin America something similar happens when girls reach 15 years old. The celebration is based on the premise that girls become young women upon turning 15, and they are introduced to society as such. After the religious celebration there is a great party with lots of guests, a huge cake, dancing, and other dishes. The girl usually dances a waltz with her father. In some countries such as Ecuador for example, the father helps his daughter change her footwear from a pair of girlish shoes to heels as a symbol of her new stage in life.
In Israel, when it is somebody’s birthday, especially boys, it is common to have them sit in a chair which is sometimes decorated with ribbons, whilst the guests sing and dance surrounding it, before lifting the chair into the air up and down as many times as years he or she has, and then once more for luck!
One of the most special events in the Jewish calendar is when girls reach 12 years old, and boys 13. These birthday celebrations are known as Bat Mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah respectively. This is the age at which they start their religious adulthood, understanding and respecting their beliefs by their own will. Prior to the celebrations, the boys study and work for several months to carry out the service that they will fulfill on that special day at the temple (actually, we should say “those special days”, because the service and celebrations last for around 3 days, surrounded with their nearest relatives and loved ones). From that moment on, the young man commits to obey the Jewish laws as an adult. Watch the video on the left...
In the Netherlands there are many special birthday occasions. When a person reaches 5, 10, 15, 20 and 21 years old, the celebrations are known as “crown years" and are generally larger than other birthdays and more presents are given, as reference to a great year of the crown.
In Japan the most important birthdays are at 3, 5 and 7 years old. When a child reaches these ages, they participate in the
Shichi-go-san Festival (Literally 3-5-7 festival ) where they express their gratitude to God for their health, and ask to be blessed with a long life and wellness. This tradition has its roots in the past, where many children used to die before reaching these ages. Watch the video on the right...
In Korea the first important celebration in a boy’s life is not related to his birthday, but takes place 100 days after his birth date, when the “paegil” is performed, celebrating that the boy has survived that risky first period.
And then there are lighthearted and trivial traditions like this one in Germany. When a young single man reaches thirty years old still without a partner, he is condemned by his peers to sweep the area around the doors of his local city or town hall. All this whilst his friends laugh, joke and throw garbage around him. This rite is to make all the city girls know that this man in his 30 still has no girlfriend… and that he still has a great chance since he is adept at cleaning well!!! Watch the video on the left...
In some cultures such as French and English, there is also a special greeting custom if the greeting is late! Have you ever forgotten or were unable to greet the celebrant on time? In France you would say... Meilleurs vœux en retarder la mieux vaut tard que jamais (better later than never) or can incorporate the original greeting by saying: je souhaite un bon anniversaire ("Late birthday greeting"). "I am sorry it is late" can be written inside the birthday card or expressed verbally when the present is given. And in the British culture, in the same situation you would say : "Happy Belated Birthday" or simply "I am sorry, it is late… but Happy Birthday!"