Irish Birthday Traditions:  Common Customs with an Unmistakable Irish Flavor!

The great thing about Irish birthday traditions is – you can use them to express your Irish side on a fun and memorable occasion!  And you can repeat them over and over again (every year in fact) until you get really good at them!

Irish Expressions - Birthday Cupcakes!  Photocredit:  Ween Nee via Flickr.

Because we Irish have such a reputation for being able to throw a good party, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that there are only a few unique traditions associated with birthdays in Ireland. 

Most traditional celebrations in Ireland are related to religion or to the cycle of the seasons.  Birthday in Ireland is a little different.  Want to know more?  Read on!

A 'Bump' To Grow an Inch...

Many of us are familiar with the tradition of ‘spanking’ a child one time for each year, and finishing up this torturous ritual with a ‘pinch to grow an inch.’  

I have to confess – I never really liked that one when I was growing up.  Of course it’s much more fun now that I’m the one doing the spanking…

Birthday bump.

Anyway, the Irish version of this tradition is a bit different – and much more challenging!

According to legend, it is common for a birthday lad or lass to be held upside down and ‘bumped’ on the floor – once for each successful year of life to date, and an extra bump for good luck in the coming year.

Ouch. Actually that explains a lot about some of my Irish family … anyway, moving on :-)…

Nose Buttering - Really An Irish Birthday Tradition?

Imagine sneaking into your mother's kitchen on your birthday, to grab a cookie or a scoop of frosting - only to have her spin around and swipe a smear of butter on your nose.  Aaaaauuugghh!

Birthday nose buttering

Or being called into another room and arriving to find a group of your closest friends with spatulas poised to flick patties of butter at your face.  What the...?

Yes people, we are talking about 'nose buttering' ... a mysterious Irish birthday tradition with many different stories.

It might not even 'really' be Irish (although it appears to have originated in that general area of the world...)

The Big 'Two-One'

Well, compared to what you have been reading, this one is going to sound pretty tame.  Our next Irish birthday tradition for 21 year olds is to give them the key to the house, signifying an independent adult.

Birthday keys to the house

I suspect 21 year olds care more about legal drinking age than letting themselves into their own houses... but maybe that’s just me.

In any case, we have been witness to very lavish 21s birthday parties in Ireland (where you don't actually have to be 21 to enjoy a drink in a pub by the way), and we know it’s just as big a deal there as it is anywhere in the world.

If a key to the house captures that excitement to your birthday boy or girl ... go for it! At the very least it’s a touching gesture for a young adult on their favorite day.

Funny Birthday Limericks

Birthdays are always a good time for humor... In between bumping, buttering and ... letting yourself into the house.  And a good limerick is just the thing to deliver the laughs!

We recommend you choose carefully since 'age' can be a sensitive topic, and some birthday limericks can be a little ... well...


In any case, they are one of our favorite Irish birthday traditions.

Check out our page on birthday limericks to see what we mean!

Irish Birthday Blessings

Irish Birthday Blessings - Shamrock Gift Tag

As in many cultures, Irish blessings have historical roots.

They can be seen as a way to boost the spirits, ward off bad luck, offer a gift ... or just to get a laugh on somebody's birthday!

Whatever your reason, you'll find a a great list of Irish birthday blessings and other birthday sayings here at Irish Expressions.

Want More Irish Traditions?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish traditions!  Expressing ourselves through Irish-themed activities gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

Over the years, we have created many free, downloadable Irish games, puzzles, recipes, songbooks, travel guides, party plans, and much, much more.

These are immediately available to you - completely free of charge.

Just scroll to the bottom of the page and share your email address to get instant access!

What's Next?

At Irish Expressions, our our goal is simple: to provide you with a unique Irish experience, on demand, wherever you are in the world.

If you have enjoyed our section on fun Irish trivia and customs, you have probably been exposed to many of the most exciting traditions that Ireland has to offer!

Will that entice you to visit Ireland - or to return if you have already been? 

We hope so!  

But even if that is not possible, you can still enjoy the magic of Ireland in these pages.  Check out the links at the top of the page for simple instructions on how to explore Irish landmarks, sing Irish songs, enjoy Irish food, and much more!

Your Personal Irish Expression

One way to share your love of Ireland is by displaying your family coat of arms (family crest).  A very personal symbol of the stories and accomplishments of your ancestors can adorn clothing, kitchenware, wall art, personal accessories and so much more. 

Want to have a look?  Our friends at House of Names can help! 

Tap the button below and see your family crest for free!

Search for Family Name Button

Want to Feel More Connected to Ireland?  Here's How!

At Irish Expressions we believe everybody – well almost everybody! - has an "Irish side."  So how nice would it be to have access to a fun, free Irish experience, on demand, wherever in the world you happen to be?

Over the years we have compiled many free, downloadable resources including lyrics, recipes, games, jokes, blessings and much, much more.  Would you like to receive them ALL for FREE?  Simply share your email for instant access!


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A Note from Bruce

If you would like to see more from Irish Expressions, you can find us on Facebook and Pinterest. You can also communicate with us using our contact form here. 

And of course you can always reach out to me directly at

However you choose to connect, we would love to hear from you!  Meanwhile, thanks for visiting!  I hope that we will meet someday, in person or online, and you can tell me about your own connection to the Emerald Isle.

Until then, best wishes -

Bruce Grady, and the team at