TrueLanguage turned 15 in August of 2021! And in honor of our birthday, we’d like to share some birthday traditions from around the world. A birthday could be a big deal or just another day on the calendar, depending on the country and culture. From cakes and candles to piñatas, there are various unique birthday traditions celebrated in different parts of the world. Let’s explore!
In China, not every birthday is traditionally celebrated. Instead, they celebrate the 1st, 10th, 60th, and 70th birthdays, either before the actual birth date or on the day of – belated celebrations are considered taboo. For a child’s first birthday, relatives and friends are invited over for lunch, where long noodles called “longevity noodles” are served as a wish for the child to have a long life. The Chinese slurp their longevity noodles instead of biting them, which further symbolizes a long life instead of “cutting” life short.
In Chinese culture, turning 60 is considered an important milestone because it represents an entire life cycle and the start of a new one. Family and friends gather for a large banquet where longevity noodles and peach-shaped dumplings are served to celebrate this age. After 60, birthdays are then honored every ten years with a large celebration.
Mexico has several exciting and unique birthday traditions. Mexican culture is known for throwing fun-filled fiestas featuring traditional foods and candy-filled piñatas. The country’s birthday song, “Las Mañanitas,” is sung at parties, followed by the birthday person blowing out the candles on their cake. One of the most popular Mexican birthday traditions and celebrations is La Quinceañera, traditionally a young woman’s 15th birthday celebration. It includes a formal gown, cake, and dancing.
Germany’s birthday celebrations are very similar to those in the United States, consisting of cake, family, friends, and gifts. In this country, it’s considered bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday before their birthday – this also applies to giving them cards or gifts before their big day.
Germany has a couple of stand-out traditions for single people turning 30. If you’re a single male, you’re expected to sweep the stairs of the town hall or another public place. As for single females, get your toothbrush ready! Your friends will expect you to clean door knobs with a toothbrush. The only way out of these two birthday tasks is to receive a kiss from someone of the opposite sex. Also popular in some parts of Germany are pouring flour on top of the person’s head for their 16th birthday and cracking eggs over their head for their 18th.
Nigerian culture is full of fun and extravagant celebrations – this also applies to birthdays. Nigerians may celebrate any birthday with a small or large event, but milestone ages such as 1, 5, 10, and 15 often are accompanied by a special celebration. Guest lists for these gatherings may include over 100 people. There’s also a large feast consisting of dishes like jollof rice, a roasted cow or goat, and more.
Children play a game called “Pass the Parcel,” where guests pass around a package wrapped in multiple layers of wrapping paper as the music plays in the background. Once it stops, the person holding the present removes one of the layers of wrapping paper and passes it on. This continues until someone removes the last layer of wrapping paper, in this way both revealing and winning the prize.
In the United States, friends and family often celebrate birthdays with cake, a party, and singing the “Happy Birthday” song. Although not as grand as a Quinceañera, a significant celebration in the U.S. is a large-scale “Sweet 16” party for young women. With the U.S. being a melting pot, it’s made up of many cultures, and for this reason there is a wide variety of birthday traditions.
Happy Birthday, TrueLanguage!
These are just a few of the unique birthday traditions that take place around the globe. Customs don’t only vary by country but also by city and religion. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the traditions that are standard in a specific region. As a necessary step in “localizing” translations, TrueLanguage’s language experts are always careful to take into account the differences between cities and regions. Contact TrueLanguage to make sure your translation is both linguistically accurate and culturally appropriate for your intended audience.
Oh, yes, we almost forgot – the title of this article… TrueLanguage will be belatedly celebrating our 15th birthday in late October. The exact date, time and location remain to be determined. There will be food, drinks, nostalgic reminiscing and the usual laughter and smiles!