Top 10 Unusual International Birthday Gestures

by Buzz! on August 5, 2012

It is of course only human nature to believed that our culture and heritage hit the nails right on the head when it comes to special occasions and birthday rituals, but for those willing to look a little further afield, there is a whole world of interesting and amusing practices going on that hold just as much significance to millions.

Indeed, given the fact that most of us are always striving for a way of making the next birthday to come devoid of all clichés and outright boredom, which not consider giving another idea a go from this top ten list of some of the more unusual though rather delightful birthday rituals from around the world?

10 The U.S.A

U.S.A Smash Cake

Starting off with the veritable cultural melting-pot that is the good-old US-of-A, parents in their millions are being swept by a new and undeniably fun craze known as the giving of ‘smash-cakes’. Essentially a spin-off from the classic birthday cake ide, this is something that sees additional cakes being baked in order for toddlers and children to simply destroy the cake and make as much mess as their heart desires.

Created for children – just as much fun for adults…maybe ever more so.

9 United Kingdom United Kingdom Bumps

Over in the UK, or more specifically Ireland and England, kids of all ages are given the “bumps” as an annual birthday ritual, as has been practiced for generations. Thankfully this is not a grim medical condition as the name may suggest, but is instead the process of picking up the lucky birthday person by their arms and legs, so as to be bumped on the floor for each year of their age. The reverence of this particular practice rather diminishes with age, for obvious reasons.

8 Caribbean

Caribbean Flour Face


In some Caribbean regions though most notably in Jamaica, a person can expect to have his or her special day celebrated by having copious amounts of flour thrown at them from friends, family and occasionally random onlookers alike. What’s more, the really lucky ones will be systematically soaked to the skin first, just to make sure the flour sticks and is a thousand times more difficult to remove!

7 Hungary

Hungary Pulling Earlobes

Pulling on the earlobes is a common tradition around the world and is used to wish good luck and a happy life, much in the same way as the aforementioned British bumps. However, the practice is particularly delightful in Hungary, where following the opening of the presents, all in attendance tug on the earlobes of the lucky birthday boy or girls, while singing a song translating as “God bless you, live so long so your ears reach your ankles”.

6 Germany

Germany Sweep Front Steps Town Hall

In certain German regions, there is a long-standing tradition where single men upon turning 30 are required to go out and sweep the front steps of the town hall, or a local church – supposedly to show-off how good they are at keeping a house clean and tidy…and who could resist that? The tradition also dictates that they are not allowed to leave until kissed by a lady, albeit in most cases for reasons of pity.

5 Scotland

Scotland Bumps

credit: jamesgrayking @ Flickr

Scotland’s take on the “bumps” now which in typical Scottish style do not beat around the bush and are administered by a straight-up though casually soft smack to the backside. The one bonus for Scottish birthday folk comes by way of a pound note to accompany each smack for every year being celebrated – plus on more for luck.

4 China

China Full Moon

A little known fact about China is the way in which children do not receive their official names until what is known as the Mun Yuet celebration (translates as Full Moon), which takes place a month after their birth. This ritual sees the baby become bound to the world by way of a symbolic item of jewelry, such as bracelets or a tiny padlock.

It is kind of  a baby shower, but celebrated one month later.

3 Canada

Canada Butter Nose

A long-standing tradition in Canada is the practice of birthday nose-greasing, which as the name suggests is nothing more complicated than a coordinated attack on the birthday boy or girl, whereby they are pinned to the ground and their nose smeared with butter or other greasy stuff. Apparently, the reason for the buttering is so as to make the person in question far too slippery for bad luck or negativity to get hold of in the coming year – though given how much fun it is you really don’t need much of an explanation or justification.

2 Venezuela

Venezuela Face In Birthday Cake

A tradition now that seems to have caught on around the world like wildfire without us having ever thought about it, more often than not a Venezuelan celebrating their birthday will fully expect to have their face plunged into the cake when blowing out the candles. As is the same with most other examples across the world the gesture is supposed to be one of love, laughter and luck for the year ahead.

Needless to say, there is at least a degree of skill involved in ensuring the candles have indeed been properly blown out before making the ‘gesture’, so as to avoid the mirror opposite of love and laughter.

1 Switzerland

Switzerland Evil Clown

And last but not least, my personal favorite for truly macabre reason has to be a practice common in Switzerland, or more specifically Lucerne. Like something from a straight-to-DVD though arguable disturbing horror flick, parents here will sometimes hire a clown…and an evil clown at that…who will menacingly follow and generally torment that special someone, before eventually concluding with a pie to the face.

Of course, the gesture is again only one of good luck, health and happiness for the birthday boy or girl, but I personally cannot think of anything more terrifying or sinister!

Try this one out at your own discretion, but it may be advisable to gauge exactly how strong the resolve of the ‘recipient’ is ahead of time, in order to avoid a birthday both you and they will never forget for all the wrong reasons.

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