Actress Lucille Ball once quipped, “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” Ms. Ball’s youthful optimism is a common theme in the birthday traditions across several cultures. While most Americans are content to celebrate another year of life with cake and candles, other nations take birthday partying a little more seriously.
Israeli children celebrate their birthdays with royal prestige. Given a floral crown to wear, the birthday boy or girl takes a seat in a specially decorated chair while their loved ones dance around them.
Jamaican birthday traditions center around a powdery practical joke. No respecters of age, Jamaicans often shower their birthday-celebrating family and friends with flour throughout their special day. To make the process cleaning up even more difficult, the birthday celebrator is doused with water before the first handful of flour is thrown.
Hungarians are all ears during birthdays! A person celebrating their birthday in Hungary can expect family and friends to tug on their earlobes before they open their presents. During this rite, revelers will sing well wishes, including the line “’God bless, may you live so long your ears reach your ankles.’”
Irish children typically experience birthday bumps. Similar to the birthday spankings prevalent in parts of America, birthday girls and boys are held upside-down so that their head may be bumped on the floor, each bump representing another year of life.
If you are a single man turning thirty in Germany, chin up! There’s a special custom for you! Men without a mate on their thirtieth birthday traditionally sweep the steps of their local town hall, an act meant to signal to the nearby females that they are marriage material. Custom demands that the men continue sweeping until they receive a kiss from a lady.
Perhaps one of the newest and most unsettling birthday traditions is currently gaining momentum in Switzerland. Parents with a macabre sense of humor hire a clown to haunt their birthday boys and girls. Some clowns even trail their quarry in the days leading up to the child’s birthday, making spooky phone calls and creating a general aura of eeriness.
No matter which method of celebration you ascribe to, birthdays serve as a universal symbol of life and prosperity. Whether you observe birthdays with head bumping, ear tugging, clown stalking, or another custom, we all share the enthusiasm inherent to another year of life.
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