Russian Birthday Party Traditions

by Tricia Lobo

Birthday parties are a cherished part of American life, but they actually originated in Europe. Birthday parties originally were an excuse for friends to gather around a loved one, and protect him from the evil spirits that were said to be particularly attracted to him on his birthday. Nowadays, when planning a party, it is often fun to draw from the traditions of other cultures -- such as Russian culture, which takes a particularly raucous and wholehearted approach to birthday celebrations.


Russians enjoy having lavish birthday feasts in which the drinking and conversation continues sometimes for days on end -- a tradition that dates back to the 17th century. These feasts, which tend to have multiple courses, almost always include Russian beer, desserts, sweet pie, vodka and cucumbers. It is considered the duty of the birthday woman or man to foot the bill for the party, whether the party is in a restaurant or at home.

Children's Birthday Parties

Russian children, like American children, enjoy birthday sweets and gifts. However, in Russia, children receive birthday pies, instead of birthday cakes, with a birthday greeting carved into the top crust of the pie. Gifts are strung along a clothesline in Russia, then knocked down at the end of the party. Each child takes one gift home to be opened later.

Quirky Traditions

Russians, superstitious as they are about birthdays, never like to celebrate birthdays early. Instead, they celebrate a birthday on the day of the birthday, or afterward. Thus, if a birthday were to fall on a busy workday or on a holiday, Russians would celebrate it the weekend after. For good luck, Russians like to pull each others' ears on their birthday, until they have pulled ears for the total number of years that someone has lived.

Appropriate Gifting

For just about every occasion, including birthdays, Russians like to give flowers. The proper number of flowers to give for a birthday is odd, as even numbers of flowers signify tragic occasions. Sharp gifts also are taboo -- Russians do not believe in giving sharp objects such as scissors or knives as gifts. On the whole, though, Russians value thoughtful and elegant gifts -- much as Americans do!

About the Author

Tricia Lobo has been writing since 2006. Her biomedical engineering research, "Biocompatible and pH sensitive PLGA encapsulated MnO nanocrystals for molecular and cellular MRI," was accepted in 2010 for publication in the journal "Nanoletters." Lobo earned her Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering, with distinction, from Yale in 2010.