Question: How are birthdays celebrated in Egypt?
I am married to a man from Egypt and his birthday is coming up next month. He hasn't been home to Egypt for almost 20 years and is very homesick. For his birthday this year, I want to recreate a traditional Egyptian birthday party. The only problem is that I don't have a clue as to how a birthday is celebrated in Egypt. Is there a birthday cake? Do they have a party like we do in America?
Is there a birthday song like "Happy Birthday"? I would ask his family, but they do not speak English and I do not speak much Arabic and the internet has not been very helpful. I read in your bio that you are Egyptian, so I figured you may know! Please help me plan a traditional Egyptian birthday celebration!
Answer: I think it is fantastic that you are doing this for your husband. No matter what country you are from or currently in, birthdays are fun and should be celebrated! Like America, once you become older, there is less fuss about your birthday, but adult birthday parties are not uncommon.
First, Egyptian birthday cakes are a little different than American cakes. You won't find buttercream and whipped icing cakes, but more traditional cakes. Fondant is becoming more popular and you will find that bakers combine creativity with humor, just like in America. For a birthday cake, I would suggest either making your husband's favorite cake or hire a baker to make a custom cake.
Birthday cakes in Egypt do spell out "Happy Birthday" with the name and often the age the person is turning. Of course, if your husband is sensitive about his age, you may want to forego that part.
Like in America, parties can be small with close friends and family or be a huge celebration. This really depends on you and your husband's preference.
You will find both in Egypt. As long as you have the people that matter the most, usually friends and family, it will feel like a party back home. Middle eastern families are usually very tight knit and the celebration of any event is spent with family and friends.
You may want to consider making your husband's favorite Middle Eastern foods for dinner or have a few different appetizers for the party. I have been to parties where dinner was served or where dozens of different appetizers were offered. Think of it as tapas in the Spanish culture.
Songs are sung at Egyptian birthday parties, but in my experience, it is more so for children. You can search the internet for birthday songs and perhaps you could play some at the party. Arabic is a very difficult language and having your guests learn a song in Arabic may be difficult. I do not see anything wrong with singing the traditional "Happy Birthday" song at all.
As you can see, Middle Eastern birthdays are not very different than in America. Of course, this varies based on the country and even region. My thoughts are reflective of my experiences as a child and adult in the Egyptian culture.