I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.

~ Lucille Ball ~

Birthdays The Tasmanian Way

August 14th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 40 secs

The cake tasts great... once you wipe the spit off.

The cake tasts great… once you wipe the spit off.

All around the world, birthdays are variously celebrated with celebrations steeped in tradition. Of course, some don’t celebrate them at all. But of those that do, surely Tasmania’s birthday celebrations are some of the most amazing.

Having reached the age of 8, children are expected to engage in more elaborate birthday activities. In keeping with our convict past, these festivities usually follow the theme of initiations or rites of passage that focus on “escape”. That translates into the birthday boy or girl having to prove themselves worthy to mark the moment by getting their ticket of leave.

Rituals can include, greasing up the body in Cape Barron Goose fat (wearing nothing more than a loincloth) while trying to scale a 6-foot pole (to the raucous cheers of the birthday gathering).

Alternatively, there can be a “swim” through a pool full of molasses (which is more of a slow motion wallow or walk during the winter months).

Another great tradition is for kids to gather round in a big ring and attempt to blow the candles out on the cake in the middle. Invariably, this becomes an almighty spitting match and adults need to be on hand and prepared to clean up afterwards (even though the cake still gets eaten).

Present giving can vary from genuine gifts of value through to nothing but packaging wrapped in multiple layers (or, as my brother in law was fond of offering: a cut lunch).

Then there are the obligatory birthday signs of affection ranging from kicks and pinches through to kiss and cuddles (exaggerated kisses between adult blokes at work usually earns the most laughter).

But, perhaps the strangest birthday celebration involves tying together ferrets (or cats, if ferrets are scarce) and getting them to pull the birthday person along on roller skates, a buggy, or skateboard. Though the origins of this tradition have long since been forgotten, it still persists (though rarely, given modern concerns about animal treatment).

So there you have it. Some of the strangest birthday traditions happen on the mysterious island of Tasmania. If you want to get involved just come on down. We are only 1200 miles from Antarctica so you can’t miss us. Oh, and be prepared to have your leg pulled a lot when you get here (because that’s a popular tradition too).

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