Life in “frog-land”: Birthdays

It’s funny how simple birthday traditions can seem so different across cultures. Since my move to the Netherlands, I’ve noticed a lot of little things that are different from where I come from yet, kind of, the same. Let me elaborate..

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being reminded that I’m yet another year older and wiser.

A few days before that, I was invited to a friend’s birthday get-together. Now it’s important to know that this friend was a true Dutch. This is where I realised the difference because it was so close to my birthday.

A Dutch birthday party scenario is the following:

You arrive with or without a gift (depending on whether you’ve been invited to a house or for dinner somewhere – in which case your own dinner expense is on you, not the one inviting you, hence the no gift).

At your arrival, you are greeted with three kisses and asked whether you’d like some cake or pie (usually if you’ve been invited to the person’s place rather than a restaurant). It’s usually pie aka “vlaai“. Vlaai is a Limburg speciality, a pie or tart with a filling of some sort. Limburg is part of the South of the Netherlands. They make the best pies!

Image result for vlaai
A typical picture of a typical cherry vlaai

Where I come from, the dessert comes at the end. At your arrival you’re greeted with one kiss and a hug. Usually towards the end of the party, people gather around and sing “Happy Birthday to you!” usually no matter how old you are. You’re presented with a cake – not pie – in front of you, usually chocolate or fruit cake, covered with candles representing the amount of years you’ve lived. At the end of the song, the birthday girl/boy makes a wish, blows out the candles and cuts the cake whilst everyone claps. – This is how it typically happens in Aruba.

An additional tradition – that happens in India (which is also kind of where I come from) – is after one has cut the cake, the first bite of that piece of cake goes to the most respected/loved person in the room. This piece of cake proceeds to be fed to everyone until everyone has had a bite of the cake (fed by the birthday girl/boy).

I’ve also noticed that birthdays aren’t much of a big deal in Dutch culture. Birthdays seem to be just another day. – which I find quite sad. Birthdays are there to celebrate life! I do agree that it actually really just is another day that the earth makes a circle – but celebrating life should happen! It’s always a nice reminder that life is great (and short).

How are birthdays celebrated where you come from? Do you share my views? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Smile because everyone should have cake (or vlaai) on birthdays!

Live life, eat cake.


**NB: the scenarios that I’ve depicted are very typical and by no means apply to everyone. It’s just what I’ve noticed and I’ve generalised in order to make my point clear.**

**these pictures are not mine**


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