Global Birthday Traditions


Ariana Reyes McCarthy


There are countless customs around the world celebrated by all types of people. Celebrations recognize heritage, culture, traditions, and much more. Everyone has traditions, whether it’s based on your ethnicity, religion, race, or whatever best describes you. While many don’t consider their birthday and the way they celebrate it a tradition, it is! There are several birthday traditions, specifically age or coming-of-age traditions, including Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16s, Quinceaneras, etc. These traditions are all about celebrants and making them feel special during their once-in-a-lifetime day. 

Bat/Bar Mitzvahs is an important coming-of-age celebration to people of the Jewish faith. This is traditionally a formal celebration, and women during this ceremony are expected to wear a modest dress or formal pantsuit, and men should also dress formally. Bat Mitzvahs are celebrated by girls around the age of 12, while Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated by boys turning 13. This celebration observes children becoming morally and ethically responsible for their actions. By children of this religion celebrating their ceremony, they gain the right to participate and be counted in prayer quorum also known as the Miyan. He or she additionally gains the right to lead all of their morning prayer services. Traditional gifts to give are checks or money in multiples of 18, such as 18,36,54,71… 7th grader Tali Cooper states, “For my Bat Mitzvah I’m most excited to celebrate with all my family and friends that I love. I’ve been preparing for my Bat Mitzvah service for about 6 months awaiting the arrival of this special experience,” in response to the question, “What are you excited for, and how long have you been preparing for your Bat Mitzvah?” These are overall the traditions and expectations of Bat/Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. 

The most commonly known and celebrated age tradition here in America are Sweet 16s. This coming-of-age celebration is most traditionally celebrated by female teens on their 16th birthday. There is a range of ways to celebrate, unlike most age celebrations. There are some that are formal, semi-formal, or casual; the celebrant commonly dresses in tiaras, heels, and large dresses. There are several places to celebrate such as in homes, churches, or venues. Common ways to celebrate include first cars, a father-daughter dance, and a candle-lighting ceremony. During a candle-lighting ceremony, the celebrant gives 16 candles to special family members to them. Sweet 16s are special days for teenage girls because they can celebrate them with their close friends and family. 

Celebrated by girls of the Hispanic culture are Quinceaneras, also referred to as the “milestone in a young girl’s life”. These are celebrated by girls on their 15th birthday. This tradition recognizes a girl’s entry into womanhood by granting “permission” to their daughters the ability to wear makeup and date. Similar to Sweet 16s the celebrant wears a large dress, tiaras, and heels. Her invitees also dress in formal wear such as suits and modest dresses, much like weddings. Common ways to celebrate and recognize this day is father-daughter dance, changing from flat shoes to heels, and the last doll. The last doll symbolizes her leaving childhood for womanhood. Overall this tradition is important to young Hispanic girls, recognizing them growing up.

Birthdays are celebrated all around the world, and these are just a few of the many traditions people have! Countless different ways to celebrate teens’ heritage, religion, and culture! All of these special occasions recognize how far celebrants have come and accomplished all with a special way to celebrate.