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Birthday Traditions Page

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Birthday Traditions Around The World

A brief history of Birthdays:  The birthday Bible story that we know best is about the birth of the Christ  in Bethlehem.  For nearly 2,000 years since that day, the Christian world has honored this birth.  The day we all celebrate, is of course, Christmas.

There are other  biblical references to birthday party's.  King Pharaoh celebrated his birthday by making a feast for his court followers.  That was over 4,000 years ago.  The story of King Herod tells that on his birthday he made a supper for his lords, high captains and other special friends in Galilee. 

The very earliest parties were held because people thought that evil spirits would visit them on their birthdays.  They stuck close to their friends and family so that evil spirits would not bother them. To protect them from harm friends and family would gather around with gifts and good cheers to keep the birthday celebrant from harm.

Many birthday traditions deal with luck.  A good luck birthstone, flower and a good luck color has been assigned to each month of the year as well as Zodiac signs.   

The German people are credited with beginning the tradition of party's for children.   The celebration was called Kinderfeste.  Kinderfeste is derived from two words.  Kinder meaning children and feste meaning festival or party.

History of the Birthday Cake:  Some say the Greeks use to take cakes to the temple of the Goddess of the moon, Artemis.  They took round cakes to represent the full moon.  Another view is that the tradition of the birthday cake started in Germany.  A bread was made in the shape of baby Jesus' swaddling clothes.  Geburtstagorten is another type of German cake that has been used for birthday.  Hundreds of years ago it was customary to add small surprises to birthday cakes.  When the guests received a slice, the different items were used to predict the future.  Coins meant great wealth, a thimble meant you'd never marry.

History of the Birthday Candle:  Another symbol of birthday celebrations is the birthday candles.  The Greek people who took their cakes to Artemis placed candles on the cakes because it made the cakes look as if it was glowing like the full moon.   The Germans known as excellent candle makers began making small candles for their cakes.   Some German family's would one large candle symbolizing the "light of life. The candle is marked with lines and numbers (usually 12) that would be burned every year.  Some people believe the candle  were placed on cakes for religious reasons.  Others believe that the smoke from the candles would take their wishes up to the heavens.  

Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out their candles.  They believe that blowing out all the candles in one breath will bring good luck.

Birthday Traditions in Different Countries

Africa - Initiation Ceremonies. In various African nations they hold initiation ceremonies for groups of children instead of birthdays. When children reach a certain designated age, they learn the laws, beliefs, customs, songs and dances of their tribes.

China - Noodles for Lunch. The birthday child pays respect to his/her parents and receives a gift of money. Friends and relatives are invited to lunch and noodles are served to wish the birthday child a long life.

Denmark - Flying Flags. A flag is flown outside a window to designate that someone who lives in that house is having a birthday. Presents are placed around the child's bed while they are sleeping so they will see them immediately upon awakening.

England - Fortune telling cakes. Certain symbolic objects are mixed into the birthday cake as it is being prepared. The object that you find in your piece predicts your future. For example, if your piece of cake has a coin in it you will be rich. If your piece of cake has a poisonous spider in it, however, it is a sign that you probably won't live long..

Holland - Crown Years. Even birthday years are called "crown" years. The birthday child receives an especially large gift on a crown year birthday. The family also decorates the birthday child's chair at the dining room table with seasonal flowers.

Hindu - Children only celebrate their birthdays until they are 16 years old. Their birthday is a very religious celebration. They take flowers to the temple and the child receives a blessing from a priest. 

Ireland - Birthday Bumps. The birthday child is lifted upside down and "bumped" on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps given is the age of the child plus one for extra good luck.

Israel - Chair Raising. A small child sits in a chair while grown-ups raise and lower it a number of times corresponding to the child's age, plus one for good luck.

Japan - New Clothes. The birthday child wears entirely new clothes to mark the occasion. Certain birthdays are more important than others and these are celebrated with a visit to the local shrine.

Korea  - One of the most important birthdays is a child's first birthday. The children are dressed in special clothes and are taken in front of a large gathering of friends and family members. There is a big feast and the guests leave money for the new one-year old child. The child's future is told by the items the birthday child picks up.

Mexico -  Children in Mexico have birthday customs that have been around for centuries. Most birthday parties in Mexico include a piñatas. A piñatas is a large paper-mache object that is shaped like something appealing and covered with colorful paper. The piñatas is filled with candy and treats. Piñatas are often shaped like animals or stars. The piñatas is hung by a rope and blindfolded children take turns hitting the piñatas with a stick. When they break the piñatas all the goodies come out. This tradition is over 300 years old..

Philippines - Blinking Lights. The outside of the birthday child's house is adorned with blinking colored lights in the early evening. Earlier in the day the family goes to hear Mass and to thank God.

Russia - Birthday Pies. Instead of a birthday cake, many Russian child receive a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust. ROCKS!..

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