Children’s birthday

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Children’s birthday is a custom spread all over the world, where children’s birthday is celebrated with a party.[1]

Celebration of the second birthday

Children’s birthday parties in Europe


The celebration of birthdays dates back at least to ancient times. It is not known when it was started. However, it is clear that the prerequisite was a calendar system so that such a recurring day could be celebrated at all. The calendar system also had to be accessible to the normal population and not only to a few initiated priests.[2] The Romans held exuberant birthday celebrations. Then in the Middle Ages the custom was lost and at best people celebrated the Lord. For some time the Christian Church even had a hard time with Christmas, i.e. the celebration of the birth of Jesus.[3] The normal population in Central Europe in the Middle Ages was often not even aware of their own birthday.[4][5]
In Germany, the celebration of the birthday did not reappear until the Reformation[6] again. The discovery of the individual seems to have been important. One was allowed to celebrate oneself.[7] The beginnings of the children’s birthday in Germany are probably the so-called Kinderkränzchen, which were established at the beginning of the 18th century among the nobility and the bourgeois upper class. The aim of these celebrations was to introduce children to behaviour in keeping with their status, forms of communication and duties of representation towards guests. In the 19th century, the bourgeoisie took over the birthday celebrations. Since about the middle of the 19th century, the birthday cake has been an integral part of the festively laid birthday table. In rural areas, the custom already existed around 1800, and was spread throughout the country by maids who went from the countryside to the cities to work and took the then customary birthday cake, the Napfkuchen, with them to their new jobs.[8]

The tradition of birthday candles probably arose parallel to cakes for the reason of making it possible for children to experience the significance of a new year of life, since the birthday, unlike other drastic experiences such as the loss of milk teeth or starting school, is not associated with tangible things or objects that can be experienced sensually. As early as 1775, a fictional story in the magazine Der Kinderfreund, published by Christian Felix Weiße, the founder of German children’s and youth literature, stated

The door opened and the glow of the lights announced a small eye-piece, which his siblings, accompanied by their mama, presented to him in a cake decorated with nine lights, according to the number of his years.

Invitations and gifts

Invited friends and classmates, occasionally educators and relatives. Those invited usually bring gifts. In German-speaking countries, it is sometimes customary to give the guests a small gift after the celebration, usually a small bag of sweets

Wining and dining

A birthday cake for a one year old child

A child’s birthday includes a birthday cake. On it are candles that indicate the age of the birthday child and the child has to blow them out while celebrating.

Birthday songs

Children at a birthday table

The guests usually serenade the birthday boy or girl, such as Happy Birthday, Hoch soll er leben(High may she/he live, high may she/he live, three times high!) or Wie schön, dass du geboren bist….

Other countries have their own songs. In Poland, for example, people sing “Sto lat, sto lat” (One hundredyears he/she shall live). In Hungary, the children’s song (originally not a birthday song) Ég a gyertya, ég (The candle is burning) or a birthday song of a very well-known actress and UNICEF ambassador in Hungary, Judit Halász, under the title Boldog születésnapot(Happy Birthday) are popular. In Persia, people sing Tawalodet mobarak, bia shama ro fut kon ta sad sal zende bashi. It means happy birthday, blow out the candles, may you live another 100 years.


At a children’s birthday party, various children’s games are held. Popular games in Germany and Austria are pot-beating, sack race, egg race, musical chairs, blind cow, flour-cutting or poor black cat; among schoolchildren also silent mail, tea kettle and charades. Often the winner of a game receives a candy or toy as a prize. Sometimes a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt is held, where the children have various stations with tasks and games and must find something (usually a “treasure chest” of candy) at the end. Some birthday parties also feature athletic competitions. Overnight parties preceded by a night hike and themed parties are also popular.

The demands on a successful children’s festival are very different: they range from the simple provision of play space and opportunities for children to play freely, to the organisation of play processes by adults, to the joint creative implementation of one’s own play ideas, the discovery of natural play materials, the development of play variants and the invention of one’s own play forms and rules.[9][10]

Theme parties

Birthdays are often given a specific theme, such as Indian, ghost, princess, wizard or witch parties. The children are encouraged to dress up accordingly, make-up is applied in line with the theme, and the cake is decorated accordingly. During the party, handicrafts related to the theme are made and games are played.

Children’s birthday parties in other parts of the world


In Mexico, it is customary to make a so-called piñata. This papier-mâché ball hangs from the ceiling and the guests are allowed to smash it blindfolded. Inside are sweets. This custom also applies to other celebrations in Mexico.

United States

American kid in front of his birthday cake

In the United States, children’s birthday parties are often held not at home, but at organizers who can provide a special setting and theme for children’s parties. In this case, the whole day care group or school class is usually invited. Birthday parties are held at the swimming pool, bowling alley, or play and amusement facilities. Often, parties are also held at the premises of a nature or cultural center or at the branch of a fast food chain. Many hardware and hobby stores also offer craft parties. Older children, especially girls, occasionally prefer a slumber party, where the invited children stay overnight.

The birthday games common in Germany are largely unknown in the United States. Conversely, most of the games played at American children’s birthday parties – e.g. the original Mexican piñata bashing – are uncommon in Germany. Overall, however, birthday games are less widespread in the USA than in Germany.

An indispensable part of every American children s birthday party, on the other hand, is a cream, buttercream or ice cream cake that is oversized by German standards, colorfully decorated and bearing the words “Happy Birthday (child’s first name)“. Themed cakes, such as those featuring cartoon characters from recent movies, are especially popular with American children and are decorated to order in many supermarkets. Making a homemade birthday cake is not very common. Before the child blows out the candles attached to the cake (corresponding to the number of years he or she has lived) to applause, the Happy Birthday serenade is sung. Preschoolers usually also attach importance to birthday hats and air trunks(blowouts).

Since Americans think of pie as a dessert rather than a snack, it is common for a slab of pizza to be served immediately before pie. Tortilla chips, popcorn and the like are also popular.

Unlike in Germany, birthday presents are not unwrapped immediately after being presented, but are collected on a table and unwrapped by the birthday child shortly before the end of the party. Especially with younger children (under eight years) it is customary that all invited children receive a bag with sweets or small toys(goody bag) when they leave.

Children’s birthday parties in the U.S. usually last a precise two hours to provide clear direction for parents who have to drive the little guests to the party and pick them up later.

It is also customary in the Day Care Centers and schools to celebrate the children’s birthdays. Younger children may wear a crown or something similar on their day of honor. The parents of the birthday child contribute pastries, usually cupcakes because they are easy to serve. Elementary school teachers who teach beginning writing like to use a child’s birthday as an opportunity to have the other students write personal messages to the birthday child. Birthday gifts, on the other hand, are not given to children at school.


Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse invitations to children’s birthdays for religious reasons, do not congratulate them, and also do not celebrate their own birthdays as a matter of principle. They rather wish all the best for the new stage of life. “Happy birthday” is not said. However, they do hold children’s parties on other occasions.

Problems and opportunities

Many parents shy away from making their child’s birthday a bigger celebration. The play educators Warwitz and Rudolf list a number of fears in this regard:[11]

Children’s birthday parties have sometimes become a prestigious event, with parents trying to outdo each other with more spectacular events every time. Others feel organisationally or financially overwhelmed by organising their own, especially when there is a tendency to visit cinemas and expensive amusement parks. Still others feel the children need the hiring of commercial entertainers, magicians or clowns. There is a danger that children’s birthday parties will become consumer events and pure entertainment afternoons, which are not very valuable and which, moreover, some parents do not feel up to.

Play educators encourage turning problems into opportunities, recommending, for example, that children’s parties be freed from the priority of cost, such as by setting a mandatory cap on host gifts that is tolerable for all, or doing away with them altogether. They advise more self-design of the party by the children. This can also consist of each child bringing a favourite game or toy (instead of a present, if necessary), which they can share with the others. In this way, there is a great opportunity to invite migrant children to learn from their forms of play and perhaps to be inspired by them.[12] With such a change in the idea of celebration, the widespread consumerism in the area of play is counteracted, creativity is awakened, social bonds and the understanding of other cultures are promoted, and genuine play needs of children are taken into account.[13][14]


  • Christiane Binder: Games and Festivals in Papua New Guinea, Scientific State Examination Thesis GHS, Karlsruhe 1997
  • Regine Falkenberg (ed.): Kindergeburtstag. A custom on display. (= Schriften des Museums für Deutsche Volkskunde Berlin; Vol. 11). Museum for German Folklore, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-88609-228-3
  • Silke Jensch: Nature as a play occasion, play space and play partner. Scientific state examination thesis GHS. Karlsruhe 2001
  • Erika Szegedi: Games of other times and peoples – further developed with children, scientific state examination thesis GHS, Karlsruhe 1998
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Kindergeburtstag. In: This: On the Meaning of Play. Reflexionen und Spielideen, 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5.

Web links

Wiktionary: Children’s birthday party– Meaning explanations, word origin, synonyms, translations

Individual references

  1. Regine Falkenberg (ed.): Kindergeburtstag. A custom on display. (= Schriften des Museums für Deutsche Volkskunde Berlin Band 11). Berlin 1984
  2. The birthday in Roman antiquity.Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  3. Alexander Demandt:A birthday party is idolatry.Die Welt, December 24, 2004, accessed February 12, 2020.
  4. Andreas Frey:Cultural History of the Birthday: On the Courage to Celebrate Yourself.FAZ, 22 April 2018, accessed 12 February 2020.
  5. Why do we celebrate birthdays.Labyrinth of Legends, retrieved 12 February 2020.
  6. Andreas Frey:Cultural History of the Birthday: On the Courage to Celebrate Yourself.FAZ, 22 April 2018, accessed 12 February 2020.
  7. Katja Thimm:Why we celebrate our birthday.Spiegel, March 29, 2018, accessed February 12, 2020.
  8. of 11 March 2007 in the Internet Archive)
  9. Siegbert A. Warwitz, A. Rudolf: Kindergeburtstag. In: This: On the Meaning of Play. Reflections and ideas for play. 4. Auflage, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, ISBN 978-3-8340-1664-5
  10. Silke Jensch: Nature as a play occasion, play space and play partner. Scientific State Examination Thesis GHS, Karlsruhe 2001
  11. Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Kindergeburtstag. In: This: On the Meaning of Play. Reflections and ideas for play, 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, p. 167
  12. Siegbert A. Warwitz, Anita Rudolf: Spielend andere Völkern begegnen. In: This: On the Meaning of Play. Reflexionen und Spielideen, 4th edition, Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 2016, pp. 118-125
  13. Erika Szegedi: Spiele anderer Zeiten und Völker – mit Kindern weiter entwickelt, Wissenschaftliche Staatsexamensarbeit GHS, Karlsruhe 1998
  14. Christiane Binder: Spiele und Feste in Papua-Neuguinea, Wissenschaftliche Staatsexamensarbeit GHS, Karlsruhe 1997