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12 Intriguing Birthday Traditions From Around The World

Updated September 15, 2017 3.1k votes 805 voters 49.1k views12 items

List RulesVote up the crazy international birthday traditions that surprised you the most.

How do different countries celebrate birthdays? The variety is endless, and the world will never want for either whimsical or sinister birthday traditions. Some, like the Danish custom of cake decapitation, are a bit more jovial than others. The Indian ritual of tossing one's newborn off the roof of a temple, on the other hand, straddles the fine line between celebrating birth and hurling new life headlong into death.

Whether your own preferred mode of celebration is morbid, traditional, or Scrooge-like and non-existent, read on to learn more about some of the world's sometimes funny and sometimes scary international birthday traditions. 

  • 5

    In North Korea, No One Is Allowed To Celebrate Their Birthday On July 8th Or December 17th

    Photo: YouTube

    If you're a resident of North Korea, and your birthday happens to fall on July 8th or December 17th, guess what? You're sh#t outta luck. Said dates are strictly reserved for lamenting Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, who (respectively) kicked the bucket on those days. 100,000 North Koreans therefore celebrate "displaced" (see: ghost) birthdays every year, but not until they've spent their actual womb-debut anniversary "patriotically" weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth.

    There is a way around the problem, though. If you want to, you can go ahead and change your birthday so there's no conflict of interest via an "official provision."

    Is this unusual?
  • 6

    In Bali, You Don't Touch The Ground Until You're Three Months Old

    Photo: David Jones / Wikimedia Commons

    In Bali, the phrase "walking on air" can have literal connotations, at least when it comes to turning three months old. Since newborns are considered too holy to touch the ground, it's an old custom for babies not to make contact with the earth until they've been on it for at least 91 days. Once a baby comes of age, the previously unclean (and defiled) floor becomes pure again, and he/she is allowed to "walk" on it, sans the threat of spiritual contamination, for the first time.

    Is this unusual?
  • 7

    In Russia, Ghosts Return Stolen Objects To You On Your Birthday

    Photo: Paul Sapiano / Wikimedia Commons

    In certain parts of Russia, birthdays aren't just about gifts. Sometimes, they're about objects you already own being wrapped up (by ghosts) and presented to you as new offerings. It's customary for Russian spirits to confiscate the possessions of misbehaving children or family members, but if the person is good all year long, the possibility those possessions will be returned to them on the week of their birthday increases.

    The fun is therefore all in the mystery: the child has to guess which brightly wrapped packages contain new toys, and which contain old toys recently in the possession of malevolent spirits. 

    Is this unusual?
  • 8

    In Germany, You Sweep The Stairs In Drag As Trash Is Hurled At You

    Video: YouTube

    Are you 30, German, male, and still single? Expect to spend your birthday being bombarded by trash. It's supposedly a longstanding custom for unwed German men to spend the first day of their fourth decade on earth sweeping the steps of city hall while their friends inundate them with debris. Other rumors stipulate that they must do this while dressed in drag and drunk on Schnapps. Sinister it ain't, but it does present a striking picture of whimsical humiliation.

    Is this unusual?