Feliz Cumpleaños -- Happy Birthday

One thing I have noticed while following adoptive family blogs is that many adopted children have birthdays while the family is in process in Colombia, or within a few months of returning home. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a family anticipating the adoption of their child who will likely celebrate her birthday while the family is in Colombia. The question, "Are there any Colombian birthday traditions we should be aware of?"

This question brought about an interesting conversation between my husband and me. Later, I spoke with other family members and even sent out a request to my online Colombian friends. Unfortunately, there was painfully little that anyone could come up with. So, here are the things that I did learn.

Besides the Quinceañera, the only other birthday that seems to be special is the 1st birthday. Many families, but by no means all families, will spring for a big shindig on their child's first birthday. They will invite loads of people and feed them all. There seemed to be some consensus that a Piñata should also be involved.

Unlike in some other Latin American countries, no one seemed to mention the tradition of shaving the child's head (which I have to say I think is positive, especially if you have a girl).

One other thing that was mentioned is that there is a tradition of having cake. However, for those of you busy studying your Spanish books in anticipation of your eventual encuentro in Colombia. You will find that the word for birthday cake is not what appears in your dictionary or tetbook. Nope! You will want to learn the word:

PONQUÉ -- pronounced / pohn KAY/.

You might also want to know that while in México it is common to hear "Las Mañanitas" as the bithday song, in Colombia you hear our traditional "Happy Birthday" song in its Spanish language form.

Cumpleaños Feliz

Te deseamos a tí

Feliz Cumpleaños a _(Name)_

Feliz Cumpleaños a tí.

There is, however, typical second verse -- with its various versions. This is the one they sing in my husband's family.

Que los cumpla feliz

Que los vuelva a cumplir

Que los siga cumpliendo

Hasta el año tres mil.




Anonymous said…
I grew up in Colombia and I remember an interesting birthday tradition: La Lavada (The washing) which was usually accompanied by La Enmaizenada. This was essentially an ambush on the ususpecting birthdayee, usually in the morning of his/her birthday. Frieds and relatives would join in staging a surprise attack throwing buckets of cold water (la lavada) followed by the throwing of handfulls of that other Colombian staple, Maizena flour (hence la enmaizenada), althoug sometimes we used regular flower. If we knew the person well, we also crashed a couple of eggs onto their heads. Most people ended this innocent prank with laughter, pranks and best wishes. Once, we did it to an American kid who was visiting. He never spoke to any of us again. I can't understand why he didn't enjoy having to run to his home wet, cold, and with cake batter on his hair! He just thought we were stupid barbarian colombians. We thought he was just another dumb gringo with no sense of humor.
Anonymous said…
Yes this is true. I also lived some years in Colombia and was very surprised when I got the "Enmizenada" at my 19th birthday at the University I was attending... I am from Los Angeles so that took me by surprise but it was so much fun and every one of my classmates was covered in flour... people are use to it so they take it with stride and congratulate you for your B-Day... just that the eggs I could skip, but that the tradition, eat your "ponque" (pound cake) and wear it too. DExplorer from LA

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