When you think of birthdays, what do you think of? Big parties with all of your friends? Balloons, candles that represent your age, cake, and clowns? In the United States, we have our own idea of how to celebrate birthdays and we have formed our own traditions.
A big birthday in America is your sixteenth birthday. This is the big one that everyone waits for in throughout school. You get to take your driver’s test to get your license; and if you’re lucky, your parents will even buy you a car. Personally, I think that I looked forward to this birthday the most. It was so nice being able to drive up to school with your new car for the first time. It’s something that I will never forget.
In the Middle East, they have some different birthday traditions. In Israel, the child who is having the birthday will wear a crown made from leaves or flowers and sits in a chair that is decorated with streamers which will be lifted by the parents. The guests attending the party will dance around the chair that has the child in it. A Bar Mitzvah is a party that is held after the 13th birthday of a Jewish boy. A Bat Mitzvah is a party to celebrate the 12th birthday for Jewish girls. The Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is when the child officially becomes an adult and it begins the child’s acceptance of observing the commandments as a responsible member of the Jewish community. Their sixteenth birthday is very similar to how we celebrate it in America. For their sixteenth birthday, they can now get a job, a driver’s license, and girls can have their first adult party.
In Muslim cultures, people thank the god, Allah, after the birth of a child by giving out gifts to the poor. When the child is about a week old, his family donates an amount of silver, usually equal to, or more than the weight of the child’s hair. The child’s family and friends will also get together to have a big dinner to celebrate the child.
There are some great differences between these parts of the world, but there are also many similarities. Birthdays are something that are a big part of most cultures. How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?
6 thoughts on “Birthdays In The Middle East”
Birthdays have always been an odd concept to me. While I have always participated in the American tradition of celebrating my own birthday each year, it has never made sense to me why this is done. A birthday is the day that a person was given the gift of life so it has never made sense to me as to why we receive presents on this day each year.
Coming of age ceremonies such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs make sense to me because this a time to celebrate a coming of age and responsibility.
While having a single day out of the year where you are the center of attention is nice, I do not think it is necessary. I’m curious to know other people’s opinions about birthdays and reasons as to why people think it’s actually important to celebrate a birthday every single year.
When you really step back and compare our traditions of birthdays to most other cultures its eye opening. I agree with Shayna that when you think about how we celebrate birthdays the United States, its kind of odd. I also found it kind of odd that in the muslim culture they donated silver in the amount of the weight of the child’s hair.
I always feel a little weird celebrating my birthday with friends like I am trying to get attention or something. I usually try not to make my birthday a big deal and have something small with just my immediate family. I like that other countries look at certain birthdays as coming of age birthdays and when one turns that certain age they are expected to handle new responsibilities. It is always so interesting to see how other cultures celebrate the same things we celebrate but in a different way and perspective.
This was a fun topic. I never really thought about how other parts of the world celebrate birthdays and how some places do not and the customs associated with both.
I really enjoyed your post. Each week, I learn more about topics in the Middle East that I hadn’t even thought to research, and birthday traditions was something I had never even thought would be different. However, I do have one question… as in the U.S., not everyone is able to afford a new car or a car at all for a child’s 16th birthday. Similarly, I assume not every family is able to hand out gifts to the poor or donate money… is this considered acceptable to go without those traditions in Middle Eastern culture or is this a pretty serious expectation? In the U.S., it’s not a huge deal, but I didn’t know how set in stone the Middle Eastern traditions are…
It’s interesting how at 12 and 13 these birthday children are being welcomed into adulthood, where as sixteen and even eighteen are the main “adulthood” birthdays we celebrate. Does this mean that the Jewish culture just believes their children mature faster? Or is there biblical reasoning behind why a bat and bar mitzvah is at the ages it is.