How to throw a Filipino birthday for your Kids
Some may find it hard to look for reasons to become excited about getting old… but not Filipinos. Birthdays are big in the Philippines and a Filipino birthday is not like any other birthday. There is food, games, singing, dancing, and great company. Filipinos are jovial people and it is evident in how they celebrate special occasions like birthdays.
What do we eat?
Filipinos are natural foodies. Any celebration is not complete without Filipino food. There is this thing called “birthday blowout” where a person celebrating his birthday treats his family or closest friends to a meal – home cooked or in a restaurant. Here are some of the staple foods in Filipino birthdays:
Filipinos believe that pancit, a type of noodles, is a bringer of long life. So, when wishing one a happy birthday, it is also a wish for him to have more birthdays to come, which means longer life for the celebrator. Hence, the birthday pancit. Pancit can be any of the following variations: bihon, canton, palabok, luglug, or sotanghon.
With spaghetti, we mean Filipino-style spaghetti. And yes, it is different from Italian spaghetti. The Filipino version is sweeter because it usually uses banana ketchup and is made of ground meat (pork or beef) and hotdogs.
A party is not a party without lumpia or Filipino spring rolls. Like pancit, there are different types of lumpia, but the most common are lumpiang Shanghai (meat-stuffed) and lumpiang toge (bean sprouts).
Hotdog on Sticks
This is commonly served in children’s parties. A hotdog and marshmallow are skewered on a stick, which actually looks very appealing to kids.
Salad is one of the favorite desserts of Filipinos and this graces all types of occasions. For birthdays, fruit salad, buko salad, or macaroni salad are usually served.
Lechon is a roasted pig, usually served whole, and can be seen in big birthday celebrations or landmark birthdays like someone’s 7th, 18th, 50th, or 60th. If you see lechon, make sure to try it.
Of course, birthdays are not complete without a cake and the traditional blowing of candle/s. Filipino birthday cakes vary from simple one-layered cakes to two- to three-tiered ones and are designed to suit a theme.
What do we play?
There truly is more to a Filipino birthday than just food and singing. Filipino birthdays are festive because of all the games and activities. We listed some of the most popular birthday party games in the Philippines.
When playing pabitin, prizes like toys, candies, or chips are hung on bamboo sticks. Kids have to jump to grab as many prizes as they can. This is a favorite in children’s parties.
FUN ACTIVITY: Make a pabitin craft! Click here to head over to our friends at FilAm Learners for the instructions.
This game uses a palayok or an earthen pot that contains candies, coins, and other goodies. To play this game, a player is blindfolded and spun around several times before he attempts to hit the pot and break it. Once the pot is broken, everyone picks up the fallen goodies. The player who breaks the pot gets a prize. Both children and adults can play this game.
Trip to Jerusalem
This is globally knows as musical chairs. This traditional parlor game involves several players (kids or adults) who dance around a set of chairs. When the music stops, each player must sit on a chair. The one left without a seat is out. The one who gets this last chair is the winner.
FUN ACTIVITY: Learn how to play Newspaper Dance by downloading our Francesca Isa Dalawa Sorpresa Book Guide!
This game is played in pairs. The pairs must dance around sheets of newspaper spread on the floor when the music is playing. When the music stops, they must step on the paper. If anyone is caught stepping outside of the paper, the pair will be out of the game. What is great about this game is it can be played by anyone of any age.
Statue Dance / Stop Dance
As the name suggests, this involves dancing while the music is playing. Once the music stops, players must stop dancing and be still as a statue. Anyone who moves will be out.
LINK TO FRANCESCA
This game is a classic and challenges players’ resourcefulness. A game master asks for a specific item by saying, “Bring me a _____ (e.g., handkerchief)”. The person who brings that item first gets a prize.
Pinoy Henyo is a word guessing game that is also played in pairs. One player guesses a word by saying possible categories. The other player gives clues by answering “yes”, “no”, or “maybe. The pair must guess the word in the shortest time possible.
Filipinos love to sing. That is why karaoke or videoke are a favorite in the Philippines. A celebration isn’t as fun without this loud singing. Filipinos go as far as renting a jukebox, making themselves jukebox king and queens.
What are the Birthday Milestones we celebrate?
In the Philippines, not all birthdays are the same. There are special birthdays that mark milestones in a person’s life.
Any first is worth celebrating. In terms of birthdays, a child’s first birthday is not just a milestone for the child but for the parents as well because it marks their anniversary as mom and dad. Some parents even hold a monthly celebration for the child’s first 12 months. Celebrating first birthdays is fun because it usually revolves around a specific theme.
A child’s seventh is a landmark year because this is considered the age when children start to develop a sense of accountability, responsibility, and knowledge of what is right or wrong. This is also the age when most children move from kindergarten to the big school. This is a very special birthday that some parents follow debut traditions by having seven gifts, seven candles, and seven flowers.
A debut refers to someone’s “coming of age” or their becoming full-fledged adults. This is the 18th birthday for girls, and the 21st birthday for boys. Girls often have more glamorous celebrations with the traditional 18 candles, 18 roses, and 18 treasures (or 18 gifts.
Other birthday milestones are the 50th or a person’s “golden age”, the 60th, a person’s retirement age, and 100th which is the centennial age. In some cities, centenarians receive special cash gifts from the local government.
How do we Filipinos get our names?
Filipino names are strongly influenced by the Spanish and American cultures. Spanish influence is evident in how a lot of Filipinos have dual names… some even have more.
In 2013, a student in Baguio City caught the attention of the media when he enrolled with 41 first names. His complete name was Ratziel Timshel Ismail Zerubbabel Zabud Zimry Pike Blavatsky Philo Judaeus Polidorus Isurenus Morya Nylghara Rakoczy Kuthumi Krishnamurti Ashram Jerram Akasha Aum Ultimus Rufinorum Jancsi Janko Diamond Hu Ziv Zane Zeke Wakeman Wye Muo Teletai Chohkmah Nesethrah Mercavah Nigel Seven Morningstar A. San Juan CCCII, but he is simply known as Ratziel.
Some parents also combine their names or their parents’ names to come up with their child’s name. For instance, if the father is named Mario and the mother is named Belen, the child may have the name Marilen. Someone named Maria Luisa Carmela Teresita probably have grandparents with these names. Many Filipino names have biblical origins (e.g., Maria Sampaguita, Jose Miguel), because it is believed that, before, people were required to add the name of a saint to their first name. How Filipinos use both their maternal and paternal surnames is also a Spanish practice.
There are also Filipinos who prefer to have single names, which leans more on American influence. Some popular Western-sounding names in the Philippines are Clyde, Kimberly, Nathan, Lyndon, and Alice.
No matter how long a person’s name is, a Filipino is usually called by his nickname or moniker. Filipino nicknames usually consist of repeated parts of their names like Jun-Jun, Len-Len, or Tin-Tin. Some nicknames are abbreviations of their first and second names like JM for Joanna Marie or JP for John Paul.
What do we sing?
The official birthday song, “Happy Birthday to You” is one of the most sung songs in the world and almost every language has a version of it. For Filipinos, this song is sang as:
Maligayang bati, maligayang bati,
Maligayang, maligayang, maligayang bati.
The lyrics sound very formal, but when Filipinos greet a birthday celebrant, they usually say, “Happy birthday!” or “Maligayang kaarawan!”
What do we say?
Maligayang Bati sa iyong Kaarawan! (Happy greetings on your Birthday)
Maligayang Bati! (Happy Birthday)
Ilang taon ka na? (How old are you?)
Salamat sa iyong regalo (Thank you for your gift)
Books about Filipino Birthdays
Francesca Isa, Dalawa Sorpresa!
If you want to learn more about Filipino birthdays, pick up Francesa Isa Dalawa Sorpresa! Check out our FREE Book Guide for more fun birthday activities to do with your kids. It includes a free coloring page, a Filipino birthday words guide and a Filipino Bingo game to play with your family.
Filipino birthday celebrations can vary from extravagant catered events, to as simple as sharing burgers and fries or banana cue and a bottle of soda or beer. What really makes a Filipino birthday special is how it is spent with friends and loved ones, and the people who matter most.
We hope you have a great time celebrating your child's birthday, the Filipino way!
For more things Filipino and Filipino birthdays, check out our My Filipino Story Activity Book for kids 8-12 years old. Filled with journal prompts, family interview questions, and pops of Filipino trivia, you and your whole family will enjoy uncovering the parts of you that make you Filipino.
Available worldwide on Amazon.