¡Feliz Cumpleaños! Birthday Traditions in Latin America and Beyond!

Birthdays are celebrated around the world!  But while singing a birthday song is almost universal, different countries have unique ways of celebrating the completion of another year. Read on for some fun and unusual birthday traditions in Latin America and beyond. 

You’re HOW Old?

In China, your age marks the number of years in which you have lived, instead of the number of years completed. On the day of your birth, you are considered one year old. Surprisingly, the number increases each year on the Lunar New Year, not the day of your birth! You’ll also likely be served a plate of long noodles, to signify long life!

In other countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece, you get to celebrate not only the anniversary of your birth but also your name day (the saint you were named after). You don’t even have to add a year to your age, you just get an extra special day! Who wouldn’t like that tradition?

Cake for You, Cake for Me

In India, the first slice of cake is for the guests! The birthday person feeds the guests, starting with the closest family members. In Brazil, the birthday boy or girl gets the first slice but then gives it to the most important person in their life, usually mom or dad.

In Australia and New Zealand, “Fairy Bread” is a common birthday tradition. This is bread spread with butter and covered with multi-colored candy sprinkles (called hundreds and thousands).

In Latin America, there are many types of cakes and names for them: Pastel, torta, queque, ponqué, bizcocho, dulce, tarta. While many are traditional cakes, it’s common to have cakes with fresh fruit or fruit filling, like pineapple or guava. Tres Leches is the favorite pastel in Mexico. Another fun birthday tradition in Mexico is la mordida (the bite). This is when the birthday person’s hands are held behind their back and their face pushed into the cake for the first bite. 

Bring on the Party!

In almost every Latin country, birthday parties include a piñata. Piñatas were originally made from clay, so you really had to duck when someone had a strong hit that broke it open! Traditionally, fillings included fruit and nuts, but modern piñatas often contain candy or small prizes. Do you know the piñata song? “Dale, dale, dale!” Check it out here! Read more about the history of piñatas in this post.

Las Mañanitas is a very traditional birthday song sung mainly in Mexico to wake the birthday person. It describes a beautiful morning when the singers come to congratulate the birthday boy or girl.

Do you want to grow so old that your earlobes touch the ground?! That is the wish many people give the birthday person in Spain, Argentina, and other countries. To wish someone a happy birthday, you give them a tug on their earlobes – once for each year of their life, and an extra one for good luck!

In Venezuela and other countries, the birthday person puts their ring over one of the candles on the cake to help their wish come true. The origin isn’t clear, but it may relate to trapping the wish in the circle. The circle may also signify eternity/long life.

Pranks on the birthday person are always in good fun! In the Dominican Republic, it’s common to throw water on the birthday person, while in Colombia, you need to watch out for corn starch instead! “La enmaicenada” is a prank where a box of corn starch (maizena) or flour, is dumped on the birthday person, possibly followed by being egged. Oh my!

¡Viva La Vida!

As a Spanish immersion preschool, Spanish Schoolhouse Fort Worth embraces different cultures, traditions, and fiestas! Our staff comes from Spanish-speaking countries around the world and they love to share their traditions with the students and with each other!

Wherever you originate from, it’s likely your family or your culture has some special birthday traditions.  Share your favorites in the comments below!