• Birthdays

12 Intriguing Birthday Traditions From Around The World

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. 

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    In One Papua New Guinea Tribe, You're Taken Away At Seven, And Spend The Next 10 Years In Hell

    For most kids, turning seven is a joyous occasion that involves ice cream, cake, games, presents, and general merrymaking. But for children of the Sambia Tribe of Papua, New Guinea, things take a decidedly more... intense turn. 

    Boys are taken from their families on their seventh birthdays and ensconced ("imprisoned" might be a more accurate word) in an all-male hut for the next ten years of their life. During this period they engage heavily in nose bleeding, forced vomiting and defecation (by way of sugarcane), and forced semen ingestion (at the hands of adult men) in order to rid themselves of impurities and become men.

    This, of course, would be child abuse anywhere else.

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    In New Delhi, You're Hurled Off The Roof Of A Temple

    Photo: --Patrick-- / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    For most newborns, actual birth days are all about cards, congratulations, mother's milk, and flowers. Things are different in certain parts of New Delhi, however, where it's customary for some believers to toss their infants off the roof of the Baba Umer Durga Shrine.

    It's worth noting that this harrowing ritual does have a hopeful ending: babies aren't hurled to their deaths, as one might suppose, but rather into some kind of bed sheet and/or net, which is often held by one of the parents themselves. Still, this is a newborn we're talking about here, so any amount of falling really isn't recommended. 10/10 doctors agree. 

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    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.

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    In Switzerland, A Clown Stalks You All Day Long

    The trope of the sinister birthday clown is a common one, but one particularly enterprising visionary in Lucerne is well on his way to establishing a new tradition: the stalking Bozo. The clown's ominous presence is designed to generate the kind of built-up excitement generally only associated with the final countdown to Christmas morning.

    For a fee, Dominic Deville will pseudo-terrorize your child (in the form of "menacing" phone calls, texts, and letters) for the week leading up to their birthday. Then, on the day itself, he'll show up in person and smash a cake into their face.

    Don't worry: as macabre as it sounds on paper, it's all in good fun, more in the spirit of a good-natured Halloween prank. And parents can always call it off if their kid gets too freaked out, but apparently most kids "love it" according to Deville. 

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