How Are Birthdays Celebrated in Mexico? A Complete Guide

Who doesn’t love celebrating their birthday? The birthday is one of the most important days in anyone’s life and is often a cause for celebration in most countries. However, would we say the same of birthdays in Mexico? Oh yes, we would. Birthdays in Mexico are as much of a big deal as they are anywhere else. They, however, are done a bit differently.

Mexicans start celebrating their birthday with a serenading from a Mariachi band singing them the Mexican birthday song and later enjoying a tres leches cake. They are often a large family and friend affair with different Mexican food (pinatas) available for eating. The whole extended family comes together to make it a special day for the birthday person, who is often dressed in colourful Mexican attire. Music is also a large part of the celebration, with the birthday person answering to felis cumpleanos which loosely translates to happy completed years.

If you think that’s all we have to share on Mexican birthdays, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. That’s only the tip of what goes down at a Mexican birthday. Birthdays in Mexico throw off a few surprises that would both astound and amaze you.

Read on to see how close they are to birthdays in the west.

Differences and Similarities Between Mexican and Western Birthdays

Due to noticeable cultural differences between Mexico and the Western culture, there are various ways in which Mexican birthdays differ from those in the west. Also, there are a few ways they are similar. For further explanations of all the points in the table read on after this section!

Mexican BirthdaysWestern Birthday
ImportanceMexicans value birthdays, and all birthdays are seen as special. They might defer a few for big occasions, but that is a rare occurrence.In the west, any birthday can pretty much be special if you want it to be and you can have celebrations at any age, although there are some most people defer to for big occasions.
Significant BirthdaysAlthough all birthdays are important, Mexicans place a lot of significance on the 15th birthday for girls and the 3rd birthday for all children.Most Western people place significance on certain birthdays, such as 1st, 13th, 16th and 21st, and then each decade birthday like a 30th or 40th thereafter for example. But any and every birthday can be celebrated. Some people even celebrate half birthdays!
CakeMexicans enjoy a tres leches cake decorated with candles that the birthday person blows and makes a wish.In the west, you can’t call it a birthday party without a cake and candles. People go out of their way to ensure there is a cake to cut and for candles to be blown out.
FoodTraditional Mexican party foods such as arroz con leche (rice pudding), sopapillas, taquitos, chips, and homemade salsa are eaten.Margaritas, cold cervazas, and tequila are popular drinks for adults at birthday parties.Party food which is usually processed and full of sugar is generally eaten at children’s birthday parties. Sometimes food is designed and created around a birthday party theme. Adult birthday parties can follow a similar cuisine, but many will offer a meal that includes the birthday person’s favorite food, followed by dessert.
Age on BirthdayA baby is zero on their birthday and turns a year older on the anniversary of the birth.In the west, a baby is zero at the time they are born and each year on the anniversary of their birth they turn a year older.
Date of BirthdayFor Mexicans, the day they were born is their birthday.Most westerner’s birthday is the day they were born. For some older people, the date might differ because the registration of births differed considerably from the past to today, and to save hassle they just go with what the paperwork states.
When to celebrateMexicans celebrate their birthdays on the day they were born. They can, however, push it to when everyone is free if it falls on a weekday.In the west, if your birthday falls on a week day, you might have a small family celebration that night, but your party might occur on the weekend or the best date around your birthday when you are able to get a venue or do an activity you were looking forward to. It is the birthday persons choice, but generally the day would be within a week or two of the actual birth dates.
How old are you?Adult Mexicans don’t like being asked about their age. You can ask them on or around their birthday, though. There is no issue with asking kids how old they are or discussing their age.Many Adult westerners find it impolite to be asked how old they are especially by strangers. It is generally ok to ask them around their birthday time especially if they are having a party and you are invited to celebrate with them. Parents on the other hand are always telling everyone all about their children and their ages – it is ok to discuss the ages of children.
GiftsIt is only polite to bring a birthday boy or girl a gift at a Mexican birthday party. Gift cards, money, and jewelry are popular options, although you can get whatever gift you want. The birthday person has to like the present, though.If you are invited to a party, it is obligatory to bring a card and a gift for the birthday person. The gift should be something you think the birthday person would like and if you are unsure – money or a gift card is also ok to give.
SongMexicans rarely sing the Spanish rendition of the happy birthday song on birthdays. Instead, they sing the Les Mananitas (little mornings) song as the birthday person blows the candles on the cake and makes a wish.The ‘Happy Birthday Song’ is traditionally sung after lighting candles on the birthday cake. The candles are then blown out after the song has finished by the birthday person who makes a personal secret wish when blowing them out.

Do people in Mexico Celebrate their birthdays?

You bet! Mexicans celebrate birthdays in large festivals full of merrymaking, food, and drink. It is usually a family and close friends affair with uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters all participating in making the day memorable for the birthday person. It is, however, expected to spend more time with family than with friends on this day. That may be because it’s the family that will most likely plan and contribute financially for the whole party.

It is common to see a Mariachi band singing outside the birthday person’s bedroom window in the morning. That’s usually only a start to the festivities that will occur later in the day when the birthday person is fully dressed up in colorful traditional Mexican attire.

Food and drink are usually in plenty, and the birthday person gets to cut a cake and blow candles on it as well. No one parties like Mexicans do, which is why music is a staple for these birthday parties. People dance, eat and make merry with margaritas, a typical enjoyment drink for adults. The significance of music is further enhanced if it is a child’s party.

Pinatas are also a must, especially if it’s a child’s birthday party with a special song being sung as the birthday person hits the pinata. The pinata is usually papier mache specially decorated to look like a festivity object or animal, and the birthday boy or girl hits it to obtain its contents.

Do Mexican people celebrate any special or specific Birthdays?

Mexicans also have special birthdays. A child’s third birthday is quite the big deal and is often marked by a visit to the church for a presentation service. The other special birthday is the 15th birthday or La quinceañera that is usually celebrated for girls.

Mexican 3rd Birthday Celebrations

This practice traces its roots to the presentation of Jesus to the temple for dedication when he was 40 days old and the presentation of the Virgin Mary to the temple at age 3. According to surveys, Catholicism is the predominant religion in Mexico, with over 80 percent of Mexicans being Catholics.

Therefore, the third birthday is to present the baby to the church for blessings and give thanks for their healthy growth so far. That’s why it’s called Las Presentaciones. It was mostly for girls, but now it’s more common to see even boys presented in church on their third birthday.

The child dons elegant and fashionable clothes for the event and is then taken to the church for mass, where the presentation will occur. The child’s parents and godparents are present at this function, and they often gift the baby various gifts.

Apart from being a child’s presentation to the church, the third birthday sets the stage for their baptism later on. Some parents take their children for Las presentaciones when they turn 40 days, but it is more common to do it when they turn three. You should have seen this if you are an enthusiast of Mexican telenovelas.

At the mass, the child receives the priest’s blessing then heads home with their parents, where there is a large feast full of music, dance, and food. Therefore, we can say that this birthday is usually an attempt by the parents to provide divine protection to the child. That might explain why it is quite common in most Latino countries, let alone Mexico, where it is common to see many children in church for dedication.

The Mexican 15th Birthday for Girls: La Quinceañera

The 15th birthday is a huge milestone for all Mexican girls as it is seen as the transition from girls into womanhood. It is the American equivalent of the “sweet sixteen” birthdays, only that this one is a bigger deal. The celebration is marked with a mass involving the birthday girl, her parents, godparents, and the entire family. 

The birthday girl is made to sit at the altar at the mass then commended for attaining womanhood. That is often characterized by her being advised on how to conduct herself as a woman. After that, she pays homage to the virgin Mary with a bouquet then mass ends.

After the mass, there is a massive feast with music and dancing. The girl usually wears a gown to mark the special day and is adorned with the finest makeup and jewelry. At the party, after the mass, her father or other father figures might waltz with her as they celebrate her transition into a young woman.

Previously, a pink gown was the clothing of choice for the quinceañera during the celebrations. That has, however, changed, and now they wear almost any color, with white being a favorite. This day is all about the young woman and is also to give thanks for her life so far. Additionally, it is also held to pray for a better life for her in the future.

Depending on the family’s wealth status, the young woman might even get a vacation to a place she wants. Wealthier families would pay for the girl to vacation in Paris. However, for other families, it’s all about celebrating with food and drink with the Quinceañera cutting a cake on the day.

What Food is Eaten at a typical Mexican Birthday Party?

The Mexicans have a rich food culture, and it is thus no surprise to see that any of their events usually involves lots of traditional Mexican foods. That isn’t any different for birthdays in Mexico, apart from the cake Mexican rice pudding, or Arroz Leche as its popularly known is a typical food prepared for the birthday feast.

That’s not all the food Mexicans love at birthday parties, though, as they also enjoy sopapillas and taquitos, which are rolled tacos. Churros are another type of food you are most like to find at a Mexican birthday party alongside flan and chips.

It is also impossible to miss homemade salsa at Mexican birthday parties. Drinks can vary from juice to margaritas and cold cervazas. Whenever possible, tequila shots are also drunk as the guests clink their glasses together to toast the birthday person’s good health.

Food is a must-have at Mexican birthday parties, and it wouldn’t be a party with no food. Therefore, all these foods are prepared in copious amounts to cater to all the people present. That’s expected, seeing that most family members from far and wide travel to attend the parties.

Do people have birthday cakes at their parties in Mexico?

Most westerners would gawk at a birthday party without a cake since that wouldn’t be a birthday party at all. It appears Mexicans share this sentiment as well since cakes are a must-have at their birthday parties. The cake usually has candles that the birthday girl or boy blows as they make a wish.

The tres leches cake is a rather creamy cake made with vanilla, flour, eggs, and sugar. The cake gets its name (tres leches) from the part of the recipe of soaking it in three different types of milk. Tres leches means “three milks.”

It is often enjoyed with a topping of whipped cream to give it an exquisite airy taste. It is a light cake that doesn’t only work for birthdays but also weddings or other parties. What makes it a popular option is that no butter or oil is used in the preparation. That means you get to enjoy a decadent and sweet cake.

It is, however, worth noting that although this is a popular cake type eaten at Mexican birthday parties, it isn’t the only type of cake. There are also other famous types of cakes such as mango and fondant cakes that are quite the rage in Mexico.

Do People in Mexico Give Gifts at Birthday Parties?

Mexicans do give gifts at birthday parties. The gifts will often follow the type of birthday being celebrated. For instance, if it’s a child’s third birthday and dedication, the most common gifts are bracelets, a rosary, rings, medals, and even money.

Gift baskets, jewelry pieces of clothing the birthday person would love, or even offering to buy them lunch are all acceptable gifts.

However, money as a gift is frowned upon since it indicates that the person didn’t take the time to look for an ideal gift. If you can’t get the perfect gift, though, who’s to begrudge you bringing them a card with money?

Gift cards and gift baskets are also popular gift options. The main thing is to ensure that you’ll get something the birthday boy or girl will like. You could ask them what they want for a gift to avoid getting something that they wouldn’t like 

Is the Birthday Song or ‘Happy Birthday to You’ sung in Mexico?

It is common to see most people in different countries sing a rendition of the famous happy birthday song in their language. That, however, isn’t the case in Mexico.

Although most Spanish-speaking countries have a Spanish version of the happy birthday song for birthdays, Mexicans prefer the Las Mananitas song.

The song means little mornings, and it is quite common to hear a Mariachi band sing it for the birthday person in the morning. The song talks of how beautiful the morning is and that the person has come to wish the birthday boy or girl happy birthday in the morning.

Everyone present also sings the song for the birthday person as the cake is brought in and the birthday person has the first bite. Sometimes the lyrics of the song are modified to include the name of the birthday person, just like you would the happy birthday song.

Here’s how it goes:

Estas son las mañanitas

que cantaba el rey David

a las muchachas bonitas,

Te las cantamos asi.

(This is “Las Mañanitas”

that King David sang

to the pretty girls

As we sing them to you.)

Despierta, mi bien, despierta,

mira que ya amaneció,

ya los pajarillos cantan,

La luna ya se metió.

(Wake up, my love, wake up.

Look at what has dawned,

Already the little birds are singing,

The moon already went in.)

Qué linda está la mañana

en que vengo a saludarte

venimos todos con gusto

y placer a felicitarte.

(How pretty is the morning

In which I come to greet you.

We all came with pleasure

and joy to congratulate you.)

El día en que tu naciste,

nacieron todas las flores,

y en la pila del bautismo,

cantaron los ruiseñores.

(On the day you were born

All the flowers were born.

At the baptismal font

The nightingales sang.)

Ya viene amaneciendo,

ya la luz del día nos dio.

Levántate de mañana,

mira que ya amaneció

It is starting to be dawn,

The day has given us light.

Get up in the morning,

Look at what has already dawned.

Although some people sing the Spanish rendition of the happy birthday song, Las Mananitas is the more popular song. At times people sing it in combination with the Happy birthday song.


Hitting of Pinatas

Although this tradition has Asian roots, it is in Mexico, where it has persisted for a long time. Pinatas were initially made to depict the seven deadly sins, and people used to smack them in a symbolic hitting of the sins.

Today, however, they are usually stuffed with goodies that the birthday person tries to retrieve by smacking them. Pinatas are more prevalent at kids’ birthdays, though. The birthday person is usually given a bat or a stick that they will use to smack the pinata.

They are then blindfolded before starting hitting it. As the birthday person hits the pinata, a song is sung to encourage them. The song goes like this

Dale, dale, dale,

No pierdas el tino;

Porque si lo pierdes

Pierdes el camino.

Go, go, go,

Don’t lose your aim;

Because if you lose it

You will lose the path.

Ya le diste una,

Ya le diste dos;

Ya le diste tres,

y tu tiempo se acabó.

You hit it once

You hit it twice

You hit it three times

And your time is finished.

The song adds more joy to the joyful event of someone turning a year older. And oh, it isn’t bad at all to have pinatas at your birthday even if you aren’t a child. Mexicans go all out to make the best of the fun event that is a birthday celebration.

La Mordida

We mentioned that there is a unique Mexican cake that people eat on Mexican birthdays. But do you know there is a funny tradition associated with the cake? In the west, it’s common to see someone (primarily a child) smash a cake. In Japan, kids carry and step on a cake.

In Mexico, they push the birthday person’s face into the cake! That’s done when they are taking the first bite of the cake. The birthday person’s hands are tied behind their back before they are allowed to take a bite of the cake. The cake is held to their mouth for them to take a bite, and as they bite, someone shoves their face into the cake

Sounds like fun? Maybe just for that day. Who would want their face and hair smeared with the creamy tres leches cake on any other day than their birthday? It is, however, a tradition that most Mexicans practice on their birthdays.

Mordida is the Spanish word for a bribe. However, in this case, it has a colloquial meaning of “taking a bite,” hence the name La Mordida.


Mexican Flag with Birthday decoration in the background
  • Mexican people love celebrating birthdays with large feasts attended by family and friends and replete with lively music. They go all out and include all the food and drink they can get to make the event as merry as possible.
  • The 1st and 15th birthdays for girls are significant birthdays that usually have more importance than most other birthdays. You can give all kinds of gifts at birthdays from gift baskets, and money provided the birthday person likes them.
  • From the birthday person’s face being shoved into the creamy tres leches cake to the hitting of the pinata, you can tell that a Mexican birthday party would be fun. If you have a Mexican friend, surprise them with some of the facts you learned here and urge them to throw a Mexican-themed birthday party on their next birthday.

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha Bellerose is the creator and main writer for The Birthday Party Website. She is a mother to four kids and she loves preparing and planning birthday parties for her family and friends. Samantha is also the writer, creator and owner of several other websites and has found a passion for sharing her knowledge and experience as an educator online!

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