Annual events celebrating the anniversary of someone’s birth are a common feature around the world, but not all cultures are the same. As well as celebrating birthdays of friends and family, some cultures also celebrate the birth of a god or deity peculiar to a specific religion. Whereas some religions do not celebrate birthdays at all. We take a look at birthday gifts from around the world and the traditions behind these cultures.
Birthday gifts in the western world are often material or consumer goods that are bought from high street shops or online. These are generally a present that is bought as a treat and reflects the tastes and interests of the birthday boy or girl. It is however being recognised of late that consumerist habits are often wasteful, especially in light of the recent economic downturn. For this reason, some people are starting to change their shopping and gift giving habits.
Charitable gifts are becoming more popular as the proceeds go towards a good cause and help communities that are not so well off become more independent. Some people are turning to making homemade birthday gifts, or providing a feast on behalf of the birthday boy or girl. This is reflective of the traditions in other cultures.
In many other cultures it is common to celebrate a coming of age. These celebrations are different from other birthdays and are therefore more likely to be a very big event that involves the whole community. In these instances everyone will provide food to be shared, and in some cultures it is customary to consume special dishes. In the Jewish community, a male child becomes an adult at the age of 13, and to celebrate the event a Bar Mitzvah is held. These are sometimes so important that their size and grandeur can rival a wedding.
The Buddhist community celebrate the birth of Buddha with equal vigour, and the birthday gifts of choice at these celebrations are lanterns. The Lotus Lantern Festival is held on a different date each year, as it is placed according to the phase of the moon in the Chinese lunar calendar. In Korea, these lanterns are offered for a whole month and there is also free food and drink to share at the main temple on a particular day set aside for celebrations. This is just one of many birthday celebrations that continues over an extended period and involves an entire community.