28 Birthday Traditions From Around the World – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.201)


Hi I’m John Green. Welcome to my salon. This
is Mental Floss on YouTube and IT IS OUR BIRTHDAY! Happy Birthday us! We even got you a cake! Actually, we got ourselves
a cake. Hold on, I’m gonna make a wish. I can’t tell you what I wished for, but I
can say that I sure hope Beyonce is a guest host of Mental Floss next year. So the Mental Floss List Show is officially
one year old. Today, I’m going to talk about some ways that people celebrate birthdays
around the world in different cultures and different religions. Plus, I’m going to demonstrate
some of these so that we can properly celebrate our birthday! And for those of you who’ve been complaining
that we’ve been a little bit USA-centric lately, we’re gonna get very worldwide today! Let’s start with the actual origins of birthdays
themselves. They may have started with the ancient Egyptians, like the Bible notes a
Pharaoh’s birthday, although it’s possible that could mean the date of the Pharaoh’s
death, like the day that he became a god. The ancient Romans definitely celebrated birthdays,
though, and were probably the first people to celebrate their family and friends birthdays,
not just those of rulers and gods. In Denmark, a Danish flag placed outside the
home means that it’s somebody’s birthday. If it’s a child’s birthday, the presents are
usually placed on or around the child’s bed so they can wake up surrounded by presents.
That’s nice! Sometimes a “cake man” or “cake lady” is served, depending on whether the
party is for a boy or a girl. The head of the cake person is usually chopped off first,
which I will now demonstrate. This was a camel – And now it is a decapitated camel. At birthday parties for children in Australia
and New Zealand, you might find Fairy Bread, which is white bread, butter, and sprinkles.
By the way, the round and colorful sprinkles are called “hundreds-and-thousands” there. I’m now going to make some Fairy Bread because
it is basically the perfect food so far as I can tell. What I’m not an expert in? Butter
spreading. All right, then you just. What do you do, you just kinda – WOAH! Can you
fold it up into, like, a Fairy Bread sandwich? Is that frowned upon, Australians? I don’t
know, I’m gonna try it. Good! At a Brazilian birthday party, people might
pull the earlobes of the guest of honor. You can also probably expect to see Brigaderio
there, which are a kind of chocolate truffle. Ear-pulling is also a thing in Hungary where
there’s in fact a rhyming song that accompanies it! The translation is, “God bless you, live
so long your ears reach your ankles.” Earlobe pulling is kind of similar to what
other cultures refer to as “the bumps.” The bumps are especially common in the UK and
Ireland where the birthday boy or girl is lifted up and bumped on the ground once per
each year they have been alive. The U.S. and Canada also have a similar tradition, but
with punches instead of bumps because we’re much more violent. Another violent-sounding tradition in the
U.S. are “smash cakes.” These are small individual cakes given to babies to do what they do best:
make a mess of their food. I’m not going to explain this one because you’re on the Internet,
so I assume that you’ve already seen how adorable it is to watch babies destroy stuff, instead,
I’m gonna demonstrate. So I am a father, I’ve seen children do this
a lot. Basically you just go in and you just.. Then you go… That’s basically it. In additions to punches, Canadians have been
known to spread butter on the nose of the birthday person. Mark, I know that you’re
Canadian, but please don’t make me do this one because I just finished cleaning myself
up after the smash cake. Similarly, it’s considered good luck in Nepal to put colored rice yogurt
on your forehead for birthdays. Mexicans have a special birthday song, ’93Las
Mananitas (aka “The Little Mornings”) which is usually sung at a party before the group
eats cake. And of course, pinatas are a common way to celebrate a birthday in Mexico. Although
we usually think of them as Mexican, pinatas actually originated in China and were used
to celebrate New Years. It was Europeans who eventually brought them over to Mexico. In Ghana, a traditional birthday dish is oto
– mashed yams with eggs and onions. In China, Yi mein is commonly eaten on birthdays. In
English, those are Longevity noodles” or
long life noodles.” Also, be sure to avoid giving a watch or a clock as a gift in China.
These are considered bad luck. Celebrating individual birthdays is rare in
Vietnam. Instead, all birthdays are celebrated on the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, which is
a New Years celebration. Children do receive gifts though! Their elders give them red envelopes
with money inside. Korea operates somewhat similarly – first birthdays are celebrated,
but subsequent birthdays are all celebrated on the New Year. Wishing someone “happy birthday” before their
actual birthday is considered bad luck in Germany. On someone’s 16th birthday in Germany,
they may have flour thrown on their head, which may sound rough, but in Jamaica, throwing
flour on the head is an every birthday tradition, not just a one time thing. I’m not going to
throw flour on anyone’s head here, but I will demonstrate with a doll. Happy Birthday, Yoda. What are you, like,
a thousand now? Anyway, back to Germany…On 18th birthdays,
the flour is replaced with eggs. And if a man reaches his 25th birthday before he marries,
his friends will hang a “sockencranz,” or sock wreath, outside of his house. The “old
socks” are a symbol of his old age. On that note, some cultures have different
traditions for when people turn a certain age. Like, you probably already know that
girls who practice Judaism have bat mitzvah when they turn 12 and boys have a bar mitzvah
when they turn 13. Those ceremonies represent a move into adulthood. Let’s finish up with some more age-specific
traditions. I’m sure you’ve also heard of a Quinceanera…especially
if you were spending all of your free time watching “My Super Sweet 16” in 2005. I’m
not pointing any fingers, Meredith. In South Africa, when a person turns 21, their
parents present them with a key that symbolizes responsibility and the future. In Holland, they celebrate “crown years,”
which are the ages 5, 10, 15, 20, and 21. On those birthdays, you get bigger presents. The 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th birthdays are
the most important in Nigeria. Up to 100 people might show up to those celebrations, which
usually involve a feast. For boys who practice Orthodox Judaism and
Hasidic Judaism, the third birthday is important because it’s the day they receive their first
haircut. In fact, that tradition has now spread in Israel and doesn’t always apply only to
religious people. Similarly, people from the Indian island of
Minicoy shave their newborn baby’s head after twenty days. Then, the hair is weighed. Whatever
the weight is will be given to charity in silver or gold. That’s not a birthday thing,
really, we just thought it was cool. And now I return to my salon to tell you that
the Chinese also a special first birthday tradition. The baby is placed in front of
a bunch of objects, like books, flowers, stationary, coins, and toys. Parents believe that the
items the baby reaches for are indications of future interests. So like if a coin is
chosen, it’s considered good luck and a sign that the baby in question will one day be
rich. We’re going to try this out actually with our office dog, Alex. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube
which is made with the help of all of these nice people. Each week we endeavor to answer
one of your mind-blowing questions. This week’s question comes from TheNightTroll13, who asks,
“Why do we call a sixtieth of a minute a second?” Well, NightTroll13, this comes from a Latin
word, “secunda,” which meant “second diminished part” because the hour is divided twice by
sixty – the first division of it is minutes, the second division gives us seconds. If you have a mind-blowing question you’d
like answered, please leave it below in and we’ll endeavor to answer as many as we can.
Thanks for watching and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. That’s a pretty strong pinata! Aaaahhh! Finally!

About the author

Comments

  1. I thought fairy bread was a thing everywhere?! Also, we can't be the only country that calls 100's & 1000's that… Surely. 

  2. I believe Indians (not Native Americans but people from India) celebrate the first birthday similar to how the Chinese do by placing different items and seeing which one the infant will reach for. Also, if I am not mistaken, the baby usually tries rice for the first time as well.

  3. I would like to know where you get your information about Denmark but im danish and have never woken up with present around my bed and have never heard about it BUT parents come in to your room and wake you up with gift and a birthday song. the other to thing is true more or less

  4. When I was a child my family and I traveled to Mexico. My parents were unaware of an apparent tradition not mentioned here of smashing the cake in the persons face. The waiters were singing and leaning in front of me. When the song was over they spread apart revealing my cake, which was then shoved into my face…I was 13. I cried my eyes out. The restaurant employees were very surprised and began giving me candy and doing magic tricks that of course made me forget about having cake smashed in my face. I later saw this same thing performed in the United States in Mexican restaurants. Not sure how much its a thing…And how much it may be just something made up to watch gringos get cake smashed in their faces.

  5. I am Australian, fairy bread sanwiches are totally ok and usually fairy bread is served cut into four triangles as a snack.

  6. I'm Danish. Never woken up on my birthday surrounded by presents. BUT! It is fairly common to be woken up on your birthday (at least when you are a child), by the household singing a birthday song, bringing you breakfast and your gifts. I'm sooo sad people don't do that to me anymore. But then again, I live alone and the cat sure as hell isn't singing for me.

    Another Danish birthday tradition involves throwing cinnamon at people turning 25 – if they are unmarried. Ground cinnamon is most common and people go to great extents to find creative ways doing so. Like pouring cinnamon down your car's air-condition, so when you turn it on there's CINNAMON EVERYWHERE. But a lot of people aren't really fond of getting bombed with ground cinnamon (wonder why?), and so people sometimes get cinnamon sticks, cinnamon swirls or cinnamon cakes instead.
    Then, when you turn 30 and you still haven't married; brace yourself, pepper is coming. Then it's the same all over, just with ground pepper or stuff like bell peppers, pepper flavored sweets etc. In addition to that, it's common to raise a tower or a "sculpture" of metal barrels outside the birthday boy or girl's house and writing with paint on the road that somebody turned 30. Then people usually honk whey driving by.

  7. crownyears? i wish i got bigger presents when i reached those ages:p no, the most common ages we celebrate bigger are 16 and 21, at least thats what i know:p

  8. in Bolivia you have to bite your cake as your entire family stands behind you ready to push your face into the cake. You have to bite the cake before they get you. It is quiet fun 🙂

  9. In Guatemala after the candles have been blown, we then say: "Que lo muerda" (translation: BITE IT!) and once the birthday boy/girl leans in to bite the cake we smash his/her face into the cake 🙂 GREAT FUN!

  10. #28 Actually it's sometimes done in Poland durring the 1st bday. I remmeber that my cusin was placed in front of some objects of interest. She picked a book

  11. Also in Mexico, oftentimes when the cake is served the guest of honour will do what's called 'mordida,' which is taking the first bite directly out of the cake. Oftentimes another partygoer will smash their face into the cake, leaving a wonderful face implant on the cake as well as cake all over the person's face.

  12. I did a dance in my dance class when I was six called "Fairy Bread". Basically, we dressed up like fairies and gathered around a table of white bread.

  13. In Costa Rica we bombard the birthday person with eggs we don't really do it to baby's or little kids of course

  14. In Romania on the first birthday you put some objects in front of a child and the object that he/she chooses shows the baby's future career, e.g. coin-bussiness, pen-writer, etc.

  15. Meh, my parents don't even bother getting me birthday cards anymore, let alone trying to put any effort into doing anything nicer on my b-days.

  16. I'm Canadian and never got punched in the face or had my nose buttered on my birthday. Also, I live in Korea and many people celebrate their individual birthdays with cake, candles, and gift-giving.

  17. Once I was at the birthday party of a 3 year old (the daughter of my dad's friend), and there was a smash cake. However, the baby didn't smash it, and took little pieces off it and it was hilarious, and the mom helped to get the cake smashed. It was adorable, and very cakey.

  18. I'm Vietnamese, Tet holiday or Vietnamese Lunar New Year is not an occasion for birthday parties. We celebrate it on the day we were born as usual.

  19. 5:07
    I'm a reform jew and we have both girls and boys celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs around their thirteenth birthdays

  20. Hey, we in the Pacific Northwest celebrate birthdays with cake and candles. Then you sing the Happy Birthday song, make a wish and blow out the candles. Presents! How old you are you get as many spankings and a pinch to grow an inch. (Not so it hurts.).

  21. Brazilian here…and I've never had my earlobes pulled on…nor any brazilian human being I've ever known! o.O

  22. in Denmark, when you turn 25 and have not yet married, your friends and familiy will throw cinnamon at/ on you. if you are not married by 30 it will be black pepper.. 😊 sounds fun huh?

  23. Korea they eat kelp soup to remember their mother, because after women give birth they have to eat kelp soup every day for a month after the baby is born. It helps with loosing the baby fat.

  24. Fairy Bread, the food of kings <3
    For the record, best with (yes) white bread, a thin layer of margarine (the only time I'll regard margarine as superior), and LOTS of hundreds and thousands (the tiny round rainbow ones). Also cut into triangles is the idea form ;D

  25. lol I liked how he said "Happy birthday Yoda what are you, like a thousand now?"
    actually pretty good way to learn about birthdays around the world

  26. In Brazil, they don't pull the birthday person's ear, they egg them, then they flour them. I don't know if you guys researched on a stereotypes website or you just made this up, but that's an absurd

  27. The headline: New York Times Best Selling Author John Green Smashes Cake into his Mouth like a Baby

  28. Because the portion of the Torah you read for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah depends on the week of the year on the Hebrew calender, you can end up reading weird sections. My half-brother had to read the census from Numbers. I'm glad I wasn't born yet so I didn't have to sit through that.

  29. hey John I saw this video of yours at my English class, and that's how I discovered your channel 🙂 kisses from Brazil

  30. Being from Ireland I have never ever heard of "the bumps" I have had birthday bashings were you get 7 shades of shit beat out of you, which is fun

  31. Fairy bread is basically John's Dutch treat Taakenschlaaken; brown bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles.

  32. Koreans celebrates birthday on new year's day? Well I'm korean and i never heard that in my life. We celebrate 1st and 60th birthday super big and we eat seaweed soup on our birthday.

  33. A Canadian here .
    They were called
    "the royal bumps " !
    Where in Canada do you get some of your so called Canadian information on this and a few other editions.
    I lived here in British Columbia Canada for seventy years and not once did anyone butter my beak on my birthday .

  34. You forgot the fact that in New Zealand on your birthday you're supposed to bring food to your workplace and share it amongst your workmates. It's called the Birthday Shout… and is also a big reason why many people in New Zealand never acknowledge their birthday at work. Just let that date slip by and hope no one notices.

  35. Really it should only be a cake thing, not a cake man or woman, or even a human, because what if the child doesn't identify as human or male or female.

  36. I’m Mexican and my mom, each year in the morning, she puts on “las mañanitas” on my birthday or my siblings birthday. So we know what’s coming up on the morning of our birthdays. Can anyone else relate?

  37. on Chinese birthday noodles: it's actually supposed to be one long noodle signifying long life. and with almost anything "Chinese" this is of course a regional thing.

  38. Sprinkles are also called hundreds and thousands in the UK. Yes I remember bumps well as a child. Here in the UK we are catching on to the baby smashing cakes 🙈🎂👊
    In the UK we get the key to the door at 18 or 21 it’s been a long tradition here and these 2 birthdays are very important!
    In the UK we send birthday cards and it’s very rude not to get one. Also expect lots of presents oh and money and always a birthday cake 🎂 🤣😘

  39. Actual Canadian here we do the punches but I’ve never heard of the butter thing. Then again I can only speak for Atlantic Canada.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *