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7 Birthday Traditions from Around the World

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The Western idea of celebrating a birthday with cake and candles has certainly caught on in other parts of the world, but many cultures have long-standing traditional ways to celebrate that don’t involve a sugar rush.

Obviously, the practices found in the list below are not entirely representative of the preferences of every household or individual. We’re sure many of them are more traditional and hypothetical than a reality, but if you happen to be in Germany and see a group of men with a broom on the steps of city hall, you’ll at least know what they’re up to.

1. Canada: Nose Grease

On the Atlantic side of Canada, birthday boys and girls are sometimes “ambushed” and their noses are greased, usually with butter, to ward off bad luck. A friend who lives in Pictou told this writer that “The butter got worse as you got older.  It was good luck as much as torture as I remember it.” We would imagine so!

2. China: Long Noodles for Longevity

Chinese birthday tradition maintains that one should symbolize their longevity by eating a plate of long noodles, slurping them in as far as possible before biting.

3. Germany: Sweeping the Streets of City Hall

When single men in Germany turn 30, an old tradition is for them to sweep the steps of their local city hall as their friends toss rubble onto them. The ordeal, meant to embarrass, is supposed to carry on until the birthday boy is able to plant one on a passing woman. Also, as this author personally found out recently, you buy the drinks for your friends on your birthday, unlike in the States where it is the other way around.

4. Ireland: Hit the Deck

Think the Irish had a few when coming up with this one? Tradition maintains that a child is held upside down and is “bumped” on the floor, once for every year of their age plus one for good luck. We’re guessing lawyers would have something to say about this in the United States!

5. Jamaica: Modern Day Antiquing

Just like that one friend you had in college, Jamaicans think dousing their friends with flour is fun. Regardless of age, tradition calls for the birthday boy or girl to be “antiqued,” or coated with flour, by friends and family, either at an organized party or as part of an ambush. 

6. Mexico: The Birthday Piñata

Mexicans sure know how to have a good time, and it’s no surprise that they have what is in my opinion the most fun tradition for children: The birthday piñata filled with candy. Grab a blindfold and a broomstick, and let the celebration begin. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would trade my birthday cake for a piñata any day. 

7. Vietnam: Happy… New Year?

Everyone celebrates their birthday on New Year’s Day in Vietnam, a day they refer to as “tet.” Vietnamese tradition is that the actual day of birth is not to be acknowledged. Rather, people become a year older every year at tet.

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China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall
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The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
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YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!

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