a birthday cake with candle

Surprising Birthday Celebrations From Around the World

Birthday celebrations vary depending on where you are in the world. From beheading a cake in Denmark, dressing in drag in Germany, and getting your nose “greased” with butter in Canada, birthday traditions around the world are celebrated with more than just a cake with candles. Memorable foods join with unique traditions to make for a real good time, wherever you may be in the world.

Checkout these unique birthday traditions. Many of the great recipes for many of these dishes can be found below:

United States – All About YOU

Birthdays in America are pretty self-centered affairs. Everybody comes to your party to bring you presents, watch you open them, sing “Happy Birthday to you,” while you blow out the candles and make your secret wish. Every family has their own special cake for this occasion.

Canada Nose Greasing

This is an Eastern Canadian tradition. Anywhere and anytime, a parent or sibling will surprise the birthday boy/girl by slathering butter all over their nose. According to legend, a greasy nose makes it difficult for bad luck to stick to the birthday boy/girl in the year ahead.

AustraliaFairy Bread

Birthdays in Australia all include that 3 ingredient culinary masterpiece made from white bread slathered in butter and covered in colorful rainbow sprinkles, known down under as fairy bread.

EnglandFind the Coin

British birthday parties are similar to Americas (or is it the other around?). In England, however, it’s common to place coins inside of the cake as a symbol of future wealth.

IrelandHead Bumps

On a child’s birthday, several sturdy adults hold the birthday boy or girl upside down by their ankles and gently bump the top of their head on the ground for each year they’ve lived plus one for good luck.

Denmark Flags and Heads

Kids celebrate their birthdays with a cakemen (Kagenand) or cakegirls (Kagekone), small highly decorated cakes shaped like a human. To begin the birthday celebration, the birthday kid lops the off the head of cake to the screams and cheers of their family and friends. If you’re not married by your 25th birthday, you’ll be doused with cinnamon, if you are not married by 30, pepper mixed with eggs it is.

Kagenand Danish birthday cake

GermanyDress in Drag

An old tradition in parts of Germany, men not married by 30 are to sweep the steps of city hall dressed in drag and look for a virgin to kiss. A birthday cake is made for guests by the birthday person for this occasion.

Hungary – Ear Tugging

A relative or friend tugs the birthday kid’s earlobes for each year they’ve been alive. As the tugging is taking place, a simple birthday rhyme is recited or sung.


Kids’ birthdays in Mexico revolve around smashing a paper mache animal to free all the candy inside for all the other kids to feast on. Tres Leches cake or Chocoflan is usually served.

Argentina – Sandwiches

Party food, especially for birthdays, is Sandwiches de Miga. this popular sandwich is made with 3 thin slices crust-less white bread, mayonnaise, slices of ham, cheese, and lettuce. Chocotorta is a fan favorite that is found at most kids’ birthday parties.

Brazil Ear Tug and Egg Tossing

In an ear tugging ritual similar to Hungary, the accompanying Hungarian birthday rhyme is replaced by tossing eggs and eating brigadeiros.

Ghana Communal Breakfast

Birthdays are an excuse for the whole community to get together for brunch and to share bowls of Oto, mashed yams and caramelized onions topped with a hard boiled eggs.


Birthday tradition is to have people doused with flour from head-to-toe on their birthday. The end result is folks looking like a dusty antique statue. A tri-colored cake in black, green, yellow (Jamaican flag) is proudly served at birthdays.

India – Head Shaving

On a child’s 1st and 3rd birthday, the tradition is to shave their heads. Birthdays are also special days where kids get to wear new, colorful clothes to school in lieu of a uniform. Birthday parties have balloons filled with confetti, and foods like biryani and payesh or kheer rice pudding are served. Departing guests are each given a sweet by the birthday boy or girl.

China Two is the New One

The Chinese celebrate a child’s date of birth as their 1st birthday. On their “second” birthday bash (other’s 1st), it’s tradition to layout toys in front of the toddler to select one. The first toy selected is supposed to reveal an aspect of their personality or future interest.

Foods served have important symbolism for the youngster, Longevity noodles are always present, symbolizing a long and healthy life. Eggs symbolize birth or a new start, so it is of paramount importance for red eggs to be served to guests during an important birthday. The color red symbolizes prosperity and good fortune.

South Korea Pregnant Moms

Miyeok-guk is a seaweed soup served for breakfast on birthdays. It is said to replenish nutrients so mothers eat it daily during pregnancy. It continued during the child’s birthday to ensure a healthy life.

Vietnam One Birthday for All

Birthday days are not recognized in Vietnam. Instead, everyone’s birthday starts on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Banh Chuoi (Vietnamese Banana Cake) is a birthday favorite.

North Korea and Saudi Arabia – Prohibited

They’re not allowed to celebrate birthdays in these countries…

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