So a few years ago, I was born today. But enough about that.
I thought I would take the opportunity to compare and contrast the birthday scene here in Italy vs. mine at home. Please add anything for your particular country or scene where you live!
Celebrating with friends (U.S.):
Usually one or two of your friends ask you about where you’d like to go for dinner or if you’d like to go directly to a bar that night. Once you know you have a critical mass, you send out the Evite to whoever wants to come (especially for the bar part after). Usually your friends split the cost of your dinner amongst themselves, and afterward you can expect a few free drinks from either them or random people in the bar. Sometimes even the bartender gets in on it.
I usually find birthdays a problem as I am offered way more free drinks than my body can handle (or needs). One birthday I was accepting them from total strangers and then handing them off to friends who still able to drink. As for gifts, many times the dinner and a drink are your gifts, or a few of them will pool resources and buy something a bit bigger.
Celebrating with friends (Italy):
The birthday person organizes a get-together at a pizzeria and/or bar and invites select people. Friends arrive, all bearing gifts, and the birthday person proceeds to pay for the dinner and/or their drinks for the night of their guests.
I just went to a birthday brunch for my friend Michelle and she cooked an amazing spread. If we were in the States, we probably would have gone out to brunch and saved the effort.
Celebrating at work (U.S.)
Usually your secretary or someone goes around asking for people’s birthdays so there are no ships passing in the night. If your secretary is extra great (this is for you, Tsu), she will arrive and decorate your cubicle before you get to work, or another colleague will do it for you.
At lunchtime, you get to pick the place where everyone goes to eat and they split your lunch cost amongst themselves. Maybe there’s a gift split amongst several people, but usually the lunch is the gift.
Celebrating at work (Italy)
Maybe you tell people, maybe not. Lots of “stealth” ships passing in the night at my office. You have to decide on breakfast or afternoon for the “celebration” and either bring a homemade cake, cookies, or buy something at the pastry shop for the morning. With a drink. If it’s afternoon, you bring copious amounts of chips and salty snacks and different things to drink. Maybe some beer (because we can drink on the job here…it’s great).
You usually announce this by sending out an email to your colleagues about the time and place of the celebration. They arrive, each kissing you on the cheeks and wishing you “Auguri,” taking some cake and heading back to their desks. Usually lunch is as normal. A few may ask about an aperitivo in the evening, which you may have set up with friends and invite a few colleagues.
So what do you think? Interesting, eh? In the U.S., you tell everyone because you know you’ll probably be getting a nice lunch or some free drinks. Here, if you tell someone, you’re automatically furnishing your own celebration and/or buying lots of drinks.
Which route am I taking? Well, I’m up at 7 to cook something. We’ll see how it turns out.
In the meantime, I picked out a few memorable events on the 12th in history….maybe I chose them for a reason…maybe not. Comments welcome!!
Find more information about what happened on your “day” using BBC’s On this Day site, or New York Times’ site of the same name. Also Wikipedia has a pretty good list for every day – just enter it in the search box.
* 1492 – Christopher Columbus’s expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean. The explorer believes he has reached East Asia
* 1681 – A London woman is publicly flogged for the crime of “involving herself in politics”
* 1773 – America’s first insane asylum opens for ‘Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds’ in Virginia
* 1775 – The United States Navy is formed
* 1792 – First celebration of Columbus Day in the USA held in New York
* 1810 – First Oktoberfest: The Bavarian royalty invites the citizens of Munich to join the celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
* 1942 – During World War II, Attorney General Francis Biddle announced that Italian nationals in the United States would no longer be considered enemy aliens
* 1999 – The Day of Six Billion: The proclaimed 6 billionth living human in the world is born
* 1935 – Luciano Pavarotti, Italian tenor (can you believe this guy is 70??)
* 1968 – Hugh Jackman, Australian actor and singer (Yum. Enough said.)
* 1970 – Kirk Cameron, American actor (When I was about 10, I got some cool points for having the same birthday as him. After Growing Pains stopped, I lost them all.)
My favorite part of US work birthdays is the cake! I find it funny that you have to provide your own food on your birthday.. but I guess there you get more presents. lol
Luciano Pavarotti is only 70??? His scary face looks way older to me (though I greatly admire his talent).
Hugh Jackman… YUMMMMMM YUMMMMMMM – i love him.
Kirk Cameron – oh yeah he was the man growing up. now.. eh
Shelley - At Home in Rome says
This is a custom I still don’t fully understand… why should I have to pay for my birthday celebration…?? And I always feel strange when I and all the other friends at the table don’t take up a collection to treat the birthday boy/girl… Oh well, just another cultural difference.
I’ve also noticed in Italy that “group gifts” are way more common–as in, a group of friends sets a per-person quota and everyone chips in to buy one gift from the group, something a bit more expensive, whereas in the States everyone tends to bring something individually or at most as a couple.
Happy Birthday!!!Get the new Beck album, The Information….
Well Happy Belated Birthday! I try to keep track of the onomastici of my husband’s closest colleagues, so that way I can at least bake something for him to bring to work. It’s a nice gesture, and I’m always guaranteed for willing “guinea pigs”. Hehe
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Thanks for the birthday wishes!!!
nyc/caribbean ragazza says
re: b-day traditions, I notice as I get older my friends pay for their own birthday dinners, if they are the ones organizing it. We offer to pay only to find out the bill has been “taken care of.”
Everyone I know here is so damn busy, so my birthday celebration last a couple of weeks, since I can’t get everyone together at the same time. It doesn’t help I was born during the last week in August when many of my friends take vacation. It’s October and I’m still going on birthday drinks. I have one tonight with a fellow Virgo.
I hope you have a great birthday season :)
Happy birthday Sara :)
Happy (belatd) Birthday! Wish I could buy you a drink right now…
This is my first birthday in Italy (fellow libra) so can’t really comment yet although I can say this- I would NEVER let a birthday girl/guy pay for her/his own cake/drinks. But of course I’m American and a little slash/happy so what do I know?
Aguri and kisses and best wishes.
Hope you had a great Birthday.
Happy Birthday, did you wear your boots?
Hope it was a great one – sorry I’m a few days late! School is currently kicking my little behind, but I promise to write soon. Love ya – Erin