Hugs, confetti, special food, music, dance, and party to the end. That is how birthdays are celebrated in Cuzco.
In Cuzco birthdays are important. They are celebrated with friends and family and the custom is very strong.
At five in the morning, when the sun comes up, they prepare a delicious hot ponche to serve as breakfast and share with all the family. This is a traditional drink based on fava beans. It is the favorite drink to enjoy with cake on this special day.
The celebration begins early, with a prayer to the divine creator and greeting the birthday boy or girl with hugs and gifts. To celebrate everyone has some cake accompanied by ponche. Others prefer to initiate the celebration by having an animating chicken soup to raise everyone level of energy.
Before anything else people sing the Happy Birthday song. Then the one whose birthday it is has to blow out the candles that are on the cake while closing their eyes and making a wish. The candles were put on the cake according to the number of years the celebrant has lived.
Then he or she has to “bite” the cake. The family will gently push their head into the cake while they are blowing out the candles so that she or he will have their face covered with cake and frosting. This is lots of fun and people laugh. It is almsot always done whenever someone has a birthday.
As another game, when it is someones birthday people will surprise them by breaking eggs on their head and then throwing flour on them. This is a custom done by friends both in school and at work.
While the day continues onward, friends and family arrive to celebrate. Many times the celebration is performed at home. However when the family is very large they rent rooms or entire halls to carry them out.
With all the preparations ready and friends and family gathered it is the hour of a special lunch in honor of this special day. Generally on these days they eat Cuzco’s traditional dishes. The favorite one is roast pork (lechón) with tamales. It is delicious and many people prefer it. Families will also prepare baked fettuccine (tallarines al horno) which is a typical dishto accompany meats such as pork or beef cutlets. Of course, there is the all time favorite of baked cuy (guinea pig), or the Cuzco classic chiriuchu. These dishes are always accompanied by the irresistible uchukuta, Cuzco’z special hot sauce made with rocotos and huacatay (black mint). It would be a serious sin to not have it present.
Every one who is present will throw yellow confetti on the head of the celebrant as a symbol of celebration on this important day. Their heads shine with yellow flecks like little flowers on their heads or bits of the sun.
To accompany and celebrate the feast all together one does’t have to wait for drinks to arrive. Beer and chicha are the important beverages to drink and thereby celebrate this day. Cuzqueña beer is the preferred with its unique flavor.
The Cuzco custom is to drink lots of beer so the celebration involves case after case of beer so that the invited will feel the joy of celebrating. There will be beer, full-volumed music, and most importantly dance. People make the day a great celebration and a party until the last consequences.
The preferred music is the Peruvian huayno. They are especially guaranteed to make people get up and move their bodies. This is a very active music. To this is added the cumbia dance in couples holding hands. Everyone has to dance until the floor shakes.
These family gatherings transmit love to the celebrant and those gthered at the same time they are a moment of reflection, time to “confraternizar”–to share brotherhood, and enjoy everything in harmony.
Getting together with our friends and family is how the people of Cuzco celebrate their birthdays and their families.