[Portuguese culture] How Portuguese celebrate birthday

Last week I was invited to a friend’s belated birthday dinner in Lisbon. Although most of us are expats living here, we were still lucky enough to have 2 local Portugueses to celebrate with us and to show us the authentic way how Portuguese celebrate birthdays, or specifically, how Portuguese make their birthday wishes.

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So since we’re talking explicitly about how Portuguese make birthday wishes, I’ll skip the dinner chat part and start from the moment that the cake was brought out.

how portuguese celebrate birthday

We sang our birthday girl the happy birthday song (in all kinds of languages😂Chinese, Persian, Portuguese…)

The interesting thing here is that in Portuguese culture, not just the birthday boy/girl receives blessings (the birthday song)from friends and family, but in return, they also have a “thank you song” to sing back in return.

“Obrigado meus amigos, do fundo do coração, por me terem cantado esta linda canção”

I tried to find this song on youtube but couldn’t…😪credit to my Portuguese classmate for telling us the lyrics.

After singing more than 3 versions of birthday song, while our birthday girl was about to blow out the candles and wanted to make a wish, the two Portuguese girls sitting across shouted: “no, you can’t do that, you have to go under the table!”

All of us had the same expression as you might be having now…” what? under the table?”

How Portuguese make birthday wishes

So what is it about going under the table?

In Portuguese culture, in order to make a birthday wish, there are some steps that have to be completed to make that wish.

  1. Right after you blow the candle you have to pick up the candle and go under the table.
  2. When you are under the table, bite the candle and make a wish.
    That’s not all!
  3. After you have made your wish, you have to yell/shout then come out.
    (I know, wth right😂)

So our birthday girl was very cooperative, she went under the table with the candle in her mouth and made her wish. Since we were in a restaurant and would not like to grasp all the attention, we skipped the yelling part.

To know whether this is a real authentic tradition, I asked the girls whether Portuguese really does this until today and consulted my Portuguese classmate too. They all said yes, but it’s more like when you are celebrating privately with your friends and family (and shout under the table), if they are outside in a restaurant, the shouting part is usually skipped.

Right after I got home I immediately googled about this because it’s interesting to know where this way of celebration comes from, surprisingly…I found NOTHING! Not even mentioning going under the table and biting the candle! So as a culture lover, I know I have to put this out and share it with more people 🤗

Hope you enjoyed this post

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