13 Delicious Birthday Traditions Around the World Slideshow
December 7, 2015
Turning another year older? Check out how you’d celebrate if you were living in these 13 countries
13 Delicious Birthday Traditions Around the World
An old friend excuses herself to go to the bathroom, and on the way back, she secretly stops by the hostess’ stand to tell them it’s your birthday. Waiters arrive at the table and form a ring around you, singing “Happy Birthday” with a surprise dessert in hand. Later, you might head to a couple of nearby bars for drinks. And at work that morning, your coworkers probably presented you with a sweet treat. This looks like a common birthday in the United States, but traditions vary in the rest of the world. In some countries, birthdays aren’t celebrated at all.
Birthday rituals first started with celebrations of the birthdays of rulers or religious figures. The earliest celebrations trace their origins back to ancient Egypt, when pharaohs were “reborn” as Gods and their new “birth day” was celebrated. Ancient Greeks offered moon-shaped cakes lit with candles to honor the radiance of lunar goddess Artemis. The first such recorded birthday celebrations for non-religious reasons took place in ancient Rome, which started with celebrating only men’s birthdays.
The Daily Meal rounded up the food and drink birthday traditions of 13 countries from around the world. For some, we pulled personal anecdotes from people who hail from or currently live in these countries. No matter which way you slice the cake (or the pie, if you live in Russia), birthdays are a time to celebrate.
Additional reporting by Alexandra E. Petri.
ID 143987557 © Alexander Mychko | Dreamstime.com
No Australian birthday is complete without one of Australia’s most, well, confusing foods to outsiders: fairy bread. Fairy bread is simple and sweet — very sweet. It’s a treat of buttered bread decorated with lots of sprinkles, or “hundreds and thousands,” as they are called in Australia. Fairy bread is a standard part of any Australian childhood.
In Brazil, one common sweet treat eaten on birthdays is brigadeiro, a very popular candy that is made using sweetened condensed milk and a Brazilian chocolate powder similar to Nesquik. The brigadeiro are rolled into balls and are usually decorated with chocolate sprinkles or some kind of granulated chocolate. Kids also eat candies shaped like fruits and vegetables.
Longevity noodles are a traditionally served on birthdays and during the Chinese New Year because they’re meant to bring long life and good luck. The dish is typically made with vermicelli noodles and a hardboiled egg, which represents fertility or life, served in a broth. They’re also usually stir-fried and cannot be cut or broken by the cook. Extra luck to the person who can eat the noodles without biting through them.
On a child’s birthday in India, he or she often wears new, colorful clothes to school in lieu of a uniform. Birthday parties call for dishes like biryani, or spicy fried rice, chicken, mutton, and vegetables. A balloon filled with confetti is popped above the children, and when guests leave, the birthday girl or boy presents them each with a piece of candy or a sweet.
The birthday person in Italy usually invites friends to a restaurant or bar, the unique part being that he or she pays for the meals and drinks of everyone invited. Friends usually bring a gift as a thank-you. For work celebrations, the person celebrating a birthday brings sweets to the office for everyone.
Piñatas have been around in Mexico since the mid-1500s, when they were used by friars to demonstrate having blind faith and defeating sin in the days leading up to Christmas. Now, they’re a popular birthday tradition. Kids usually get three tries hitting the piñata, and when one of them breaks it open, candy for everyone falls to the ground. The practice comes with a special song. Additionally, there is the tradition of “la mordida” ("the bite"), when the birthday girl or boy’s face is shoved into the cake for a first taste, while friends and family shout, “Mordida! Mordida! Mordida!" Traditionally, the cake is a tres leches cake, or a multicolored layered cake.
A traditional birthday meal in Russia usually consists of fish as well as potato and beet salads. Pirozhki, fried dumplings filled with meat, fish, or vegetables, are also common. There is typically no birthday cake; instead, it’s more common to have fruit pies with a birthday greeting carved into the crust of the pie.