One of the large differences of Filipino culture from American culture is our celebration of birthdays. Most Americans do not prioritize birthdays too much, but for Filipinos, it is a different story. We love birthdays. They’re a big deal and a significant part of a culture.
Where holiday celebrations like Christmas and Easter are about spending time with family, birthdays are a celebration of the self, a celebration of life.
For Filipinos, a birthday is a time to honor a person, to honor their life and give thanksgiving to God for the gift of being alive. Our birthdays are a recognition of life’s journey. They are a testament of our survival, not only of getting through another year but also the survival of our people.
While Spanish control influenced our religious holidays, birthdays are uniquely Filipino, a time to celebrate our heritage.
On Filipino birthdays, the celebrant is the center of attention. We shower him/her with gifts and love. Many Filipinos will treat everyone with a birthday “blowout” meal on their special day, to treat their friends and family.
My mother celebrated her birthday this month by taking a week off work and spending time with family. We went to church, shopped, and ate Mom’s delicious homemade pancit. Eating noodles for longevity is another Filipino tradition. The long strands represent a long life.
Of course, though we may observe fun superstitions like this one, we know that the only one who can truly provide us with long life is God. A hallmark of Filipino culture is our faith. Traditionally, Filipinos attend Mass on their birthdays. This is to honor God and show gratitude for being given another year of life. As always, our faith is the center of everything.
Like any other Filipino gathering or party, birthday celebrations are vibrant and loud. We like to celebrate with those we love and we like to have a good time. We also like to eat. Filipino birthdays are celebrated with lots of good food followed by the universal tradition of birthday cake.
We like our birthdays so much that many of us have multiple celebrations. I always like to spend the day of my birthday celebrating with my Mom because I recognize that my day of birth is just as much hers as mine. She is, after all, the one who brought me into the world! I celebrate with my friends on another day. Being Filipino, karaoke is often a part of the birthday festivities.
The Filipino birthday tradition is one of my favorite parts of our culture. Filipinos certainly know how to make their loved ones feel special!