Celebrating Your Birthday- Mexican Style!

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I love celebrating birthdays! It is a great time to eat good food, have a good time and share your good fortune with those you love most. After celebrating 6 birthdays in the Netherlands, I have a strong appreciation of how we do birthdays in Mexico. If your birthday is coming up and you are wondering how it would be in Mexico, I will explain just some of the was we celebrate birthdays in Mexico.

Photo taken by Ralph Hockens found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0


When the big day comes, many people will congratulate you by saying feliz cumpleaños or felicidades! We are big huggers and kissers, so don’t be surprised if someone gives you a big abrazo and maybe even un beso en el cachete when they congratulate you. They will also wish you many more birthdays or que cumplas muchos años mas. In some cultures, it is custom to congratulate the parents or relatives, but in Mexico, we pretty much just congratulate the cumpleañero!

Queremos pastel pastel pastel!

A birthday without cake is not a birthday! In Mexico, we love cake (to be honest, all types of sweet food) and the cumpleañero or cumpleañera needs a cake. There is no specific traditional cake, and the sky is the limit. Just like in the U.S., fondant cakes are all the craze in Mexico, but there are all types of cakes for all tastes. My favorite is one from a bakery in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacan. It is a mango cake with lemon icing on top. It is absolutely delicious! When I first moved to the Netherlands, I was shocked to find out the cumpleañero brings his/her own cake to work and family gatherings. How does it work where you live?

La Canción

Once the cake is brought out, everyone gathers to sing Las Mañanitas. While you could sing to someone the literal translation of the “Happy birthday” song, Las Mañanitas are more common in Mexico. Below are the lyrics and a video of a very famous Mexican singer, Vicente Fernandez, singing this song in mariachi style. The lyrics might vary a bit because some families like to insert the name of the cumpleañero.

Estas son las mañanitas
que cantaba el rey David
a las muchachas bonitas,
Te las cantamos asi.

Despierta, mi bien, despierta,
mira que ya amaneció,
ya los pajarillos cantan,
La luna ya se metió.

Qué linda está la mañana
en que vengo a saludarte
venimos todos con gusto
y placer a felicitarte.

El día en que tu naciste,
nacieron todas las flores,
y en la pila del bautismo,
cantaron los ruiseñores.

Ya viene amaneciendo,
ya la luz del día nos dio.
Levántate de mañana,
mira que ya amaneció

This is “Las Mañanitas”
that King David sang
to the pretty girls;
As we sing them to you.

Wake up, my love, wake up.
Look at what has dawned,
Already the little birds are singing,
The moon already went in.

How pretty is the morning
In which I come to greet you.
We all came with pleasure
and joy to congratulate you.

On the day you were born
All the flowers were born.
At the baptismal font
The nightingales sang.

It is starting to be dawn,
The day has given us light.
Get up in the morning,
Look at what has already dawned.

La mordida

After singing and before cutting the cake, the cumpleañero has to take part in the awful tradition of la mordida or the bite. Some families are nice and just ask you to take a small bite and get some frosting in your nose, while others are a bit more vicious and push you down completely. There is always the tía that gets mad at those that pushed and complains about the bichos or germs that the mordida left behind.

La Piñata

If you are celebrating someone young, a piñata is a must! In Mexico, you can get all sorts of piñatas of all types of characters from movies, celebrities, and even politicians. Traditionally, piñatas were made with a clay pot that had 5 peaks attached to it. These would be filled with fruits, sugar cane, and small toys. Each child takes turns in hitting the piñata until it all comes tumbling down and everyone runs to get as much of the goods as possible. Nowadays, the piñatas are filled with candies and they are made out of cardboard and newspaper and not clay.

Piñatas might sound like a dangerous part of a party. Yes, there is usually the one kid that hits the people holding the piñata high up, or a small child might get in the way. Because this is a normal part of the party, parents and children know to stay away and keep the little ones, who might be new to this, away from the stick.

Los regalos

While it can vary per family, you should count on taking a present to any birthday party. Envelopes with money, as is the practice in a lot of countries, are not always the best choice. It is assumed the person didn’t make time to look for a present. However, it is becoming more common to give gift cards and there is always the abuelita who likes to give the cumpleañero a nice big bill as a present.

How do you celebrate your birthday in your country?

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About the Author:Karoly G Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover!

I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!

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