Birthdays in Slovenia

23 Aug 2023
As we prepare to head back to Blighty for a very special ‘big birthday’ celebration in the family, it got us thinking about how birthdays are celebrated here in Slovenia.

For the most part, they are celebrated in similar ways to other countries and cultures. On your special day, you will receive gifts and a cake, but when it comes to any party arrangements, meals or drinks out, the birthday celebrant will be expected to foot the bill… Ouch.

Any significant birthday or a birthday with a zero in it requires something a little bit special, and an old Slovenian tradition is to erect and decorate a tall pole outside the home of the birthday celebrant’s home or in a prominent village square.
This unique custom of setting up ‘Mlaje’ is deeply rooted in Slovenian rural culture and has been passed down through generations. 

The poles, of around 12 to 18 metres, will have a significant number on top, often in the style of a road sign, and are often adorned with colourful ribbons, flowers or symbols to represent the person’s achievements or interests. 

The practice dates back to the 18th century when it was common to honour milestones such as 30th, 40th, or 50th birthdays in this grand manner. The poles symbolise the significance of the birthday and serve as a way for the community to express love and respect for the celebrant. It also signifies the individual's place in the community and contribution to its collective history.

Today, while urbanisation and modernization have led to some changes in the tradition, the practice of erecting birthday poles remains a cherished part of Slovenian culture. It represents the strong sense of community, family ties, and cultural heritage that continues to hold great importance in Slovenian society. The poles are also used for other celebrations such as May Day, weddings and anniversaries. Preparation and planning are all part of the fun, and with so much effort going into erecting these poles, they often stay in place for up to a month.

Significant birthday and milestone celebrations around the world

Some Asian countries don’t wait for a full year to pass before celebrating a new family member. In China and Malaysia a baby’s first month is celebrated and red eggs are given as a symbol of happiness and good luck. In Indonesia a similar ceremony known as ‘bersalin’ is celebrated after the baby’s first 40 days, where prayers and blessings are offered for health and future happiness.

South Korea and Vietnam do wait a full year and a baby’s first birthday is known as ‘Dol’. Celebrations include a festive party with the baby dressed in traditional attire. Various objects are placed in front of the child and the item the child picks up first is believed to predict their future interests or career.

In Jewish culture at the age of 13, Bar Mitzvah (for boys) or Bat Mitzvah (for girls) is a coming-of-age ceremony. It involves reading from the Torah, leading prayers, and is followed by a celebratory feast.

Quinceañera (15th Birthday) - Mexico and Latin America: In many Latin American cultures, a girl's 15th birthday, known as a Quinceañera, is a grand celebration. It marks her transition from childhood to womanhood. The event includes a formal ceremony, religious blessings, a lavish party, and often a choreographed dance.

Over in the United States, ‘Sweet 16’ is a big event in a girl’s life and seen as a significant step towards adulthood. It is often celebrated elaborately and can involve extravagant parties, often with themes or specific dress codes.

In the UK, ‘big’ birthdays start at 18, when you legally become an adult and therefore able to vote, get married, buy alcohol, and buy property, as became the law in 1969 when it was reduced from 21 years of age. The celebrant may be given a decorative key. The key represents coming of age and the key to your future. After that it’s zeros all the way, which usually involves a big celebration with family and friends. If you’re lucky enough to make it all the way to 100, then you may receive a letter from the King.

Photo by Lucas Law on Unsplash

In Danish culture turning 25 and 30 can take a spicy turn. If you’re unmarried at the grand old age of 25, friends and family may choose to douse you in cinnamon. And if you’re still unwed at the age of 30 be prepared to receive a pepper mill as a gift. This olden-day tradition comes about from the travelling salesmen who were often bachelors too poor to marry, thus nicknamed ‘Pebersvend’ or (Pepper gentry), the female equivalent being a ‘Pebermø’ (Pepper-virgin).

Whatever traditions you choose to follow for your big day, it’s safe to say for most of us, there will almost definitely be a cake involved. And everyone agrees that calories don't count on your birthday. 

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

Thumbnail photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Connect via social media
google sign in button
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Put our app in your pocket
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here. AGREE