1. Your face is pushed into the birthday cake.
My favourite Mexican birthday tradition is “la mordida,” when the birthday girl or boy’s face is shoved into the cake for them to take the first bite, whilst everyone around them shouts “Mordida! Mordida! Mordida!” Note that Mexican cakes are pretty creamy.
2. Mariachis serenade you as the sun comes up.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been woken up by one of my neighbors being serenaded on their birthday at 6am. The sounds of mariachis singing “Las Mañanitas” (“Little Mornings”) drifts through the window. While it’s beautiful, I always think if it were my birthday I’d prefer they arrived a little later.
3. You get “Las Mañanitas” sung to you, even at night.
Speaking of “Las Mañanitas,” Mexico is one of the few Latin countries with a birthday song that’s not simply a Spanish adaptation of “Happy Birthday.” The “Little Mornings” song describes the beauty of the morning in which the singer comes to congratulate the birthday boy or girl. Before it was only sung in the morning; nowadays, it can be sung at any time, usually when the candles have been lit on the birthday cake.
Important Note: In Yucatán, people usually sing a song named “En un Día Feliz” (On a Happy Day), which is in fact a Spanish adaptation of the traditional American “Happy Birthday” song.
4. A traditional tres leches cake (or multicolored mega cake) is the centerpiece.
It seems like every party I go to there’s a tres leches cake, which is fine by me because they’re so delicious. It seems like the creamier and more layered the cake, the better. If you like football, expect a football pitch with players, goals, and maybe even grandstands as decorations. If you like The Little Mermaid, you could be greeted with a whole seascape complete with shells, fish, and multiple Ariels.
5. You smack a piñata.
A birthday party in Mexico isn’t complete without a piñata. Piñatas come in all shapes and sizes (but very rarely will you see the donkey-shaped one sold all over the US and Europe).
Adult or child, there’s nothing better than being able to get out all of your energy bashing apiñata until it explodes with sweets and toys. There’s always one child who comes prepared with multiple pockets to fill with goodies (and usually their dad isn’t far behind).
6. You drive around all day with your car plastered in Post-it notes.
A lovely and fun tradition in Mexico turns your car into a multicolored display of love for you from your family and friends. Each Post-it will have a special something written on it. Recently, I saw a grandma driving around with notes of love from all of her children and grandchildren on her birthday. The smile on her face was unbeatable.
7. Your entire family comes to celebrate.
Mexican birthdays are definitely more of a family affair than a time to spend with friends. You’ll celebrate with everyone — parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., into the early hours.
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