After living abroad for a few years and having the chance of celebrating some birthdays in European and Latin American countries, I can say that it is more fun to grow old in Brazil. The traditions around a birthday celebration and the way how Brazilians use this as another excuse to celebrate life make the wrinkles and distant childhood memories look less painful on this day.
Among some people that I’ve met in the years, some don’t receive the idea of celebrating a birthday so well, because it marks another year of life and, therefore, that you are getting older. Specially after reaching twenty-five, the age that marks the biological fact that you, instead of growing up, are growing old. Girls start to worry about early-coming wrinkles and boys are already bored of having to shave almost every day. But in Brazil it’s different. Birthdays are a reason to call the whole family, friends and colleagues from work and spend the whole day celebrating the simple fact that you are alive, healthy and one year wiser.
When I was a child, apart from being waken up by my mother with one chocolate for each year of life, the date couldn’t go by without a little party with a cake, soft drinks, snacks, candies and games. Having a birthday is way better when you are a child, of course, but being a Brazilian kid is even better. Meanwhile in other countries that I’ve visited birthday parties are filled with food and snacks bought in supermarkets or made in last minute, the fun starts way before the party in Brazil, when we prepare the sweets and snacks to eat before singing happy birthday. Between the sweets there are brigadeiro (traditionally Brazilian, made of chocolate and condensed milk), the beijinho (little kiss, made of condensed milk and shredded coconut), and the surpresa de uva (grape surprise, a grape covered in a condensed milk cream and sugar). The most common snacks are the empadinhas and the pastéis de forno (baked and filled generally with cheese or meat) and the traditional coxinhas (delicious pastries made with potato dough and filled with shredded chicken meat). Apart from that, everything is prepared with lots of love and care to share with your dearest friends.
Birthdays are also better on Sundays: when we grow up there is not much time to dedicate to so many details anymore, but the feeling that the day needs to be celebrated still exists. Even having to work the whole day, Brazilians always find time to celebrate – even if it is for half an hour after work if your birthday is during the week, but in every few years we have the luck of celebrating it on a Sunday, which gives a reason to make two more parties, on the Friday and Saturday before.
As good Brazilians, we celebrate life just for being alive, and we don’t need any more reason to do so. And any given day is a good excuse to do it again. So, if you go to Brazil during your birthday, don’t forget to invite all your friends, clear your schedule for the party and enjoy it a lot: Happy birthday to you in this lovely date, much happiness and many years of life!*
*lyrics of the Brazilian “happy birthday” song in Brazil.