Growing up in Laos I never had a birthday celebration. I didn’t even know my own birthday to begin with. I never attended a birthday party either since none of my friends were having a birthday party or any sort. It was a big news to me to know that having a birthday party is a trend in Laos now a day. Just like in the US, some parents would throw a big party with cake and have big amount of food like a boun with all you can drink Beer Lao.

Aae's birthday

Aae's birthday

Aae and Aunt Phone

My cousin Aae was celebrating his 10th birthday last month while Aunt Kian was in Pakse. Aae is not related to me by blood. My Grand-Mama adopted his mother (Aunt Phone) when she was young and has been treating her like one of her daughters. Aunt Kian told me they celebrate someone’s birthday in a simple manner. The family would all get up early and will prepare food for the Morning Alms Giving. The menu for dinner is only Khua Mie (fried sticky rice noodles) and maybe a small cake.

Aae's birthday

Aae's birthday

Aae's birthday

Aae's birthday

For Aae’s birthday this year, he got a small cake as extra for being 10 years old and also a nice serving of coagulated pig’s blood to go with the fried noodles. Aae’s cousins and my other aunt were there to join the festivity.



  1. sabai dee morning Darly, I recognize a few people’s birthday party because it’s modernization and westernization…with cake and all.  Cake?  Cake and candles is not Laotian so we adopted them into our modern culture I think. 

    As far as your birthday goes, you got one.  It was the day you were born.  My birthday was celebrate once and one time.  That is when I was born.  Because my parent are not westerners, I don’t get a birthday cake and candles from them.  It’s okay.   When I was dating and having girl friends, they would be upset when I forgot or ignore their birthday.  After I understand how important all that is to them, I was being more sensitive to it. 

    I am sorry I was not to celebrate your first birthday, I mean the day that you were born.  But, I want to celebrate your birthday someday, let all get together and celebrate all of our the day we born.  The day I was born is April 20, 1966.  What is yours, I want to start sending you a birthday card.  This is if you want upgrade this friendship.

    Oh, when I was in Pakse, my ex’s sister adopted someone else’s child to be her own and she is like her own child.  It’s common especially in the south to make non blood relative your own relative.  But really, we are all linked somehow.  Good day Darly, ai Amphone like to write when he writes.  Sorry for being lengthy.   

  2. Sabaidee Ai Amphone,

    Thank you for your warm words and sharing about what it means to have a birthday. My parents celebrated my sisblings’ birthday in the US but not mine, except for one time. To this day they still forget my birthday.

    To be honest my parents can’t seem to agree on what day I was actually born. This might sound mean but I don’t care much for my own birthday celebration. I had to host a sort of birthday party here because Dutch people make it a big deal to spend this special day with your family and friends. If it was up to me, I would rather be alone so I can think.

    My last birthday, I called my Grand-Mama and my mother and thanked them for my life. I sent my Grand-Mama gift and money as token of appreciation.

    I thank you for your kind gesture. It’s too painful for me to think of my birthday and that is why I don’t tell any of my friends of this day. When my own parents don’t even notice my existence, this day doesn’t mean much to me. Let’s hope I can be alone this year.

  3. Sabai dee Darly,

    Wow, your blog got to be pretty busy.  Your trip to Laos was really worth it huh.  The pictures are great. 

    Darly, I would never figure you to be this way. About the birthday thing, I meant.  But let me assure you.  Your birthday party is going to be a good one.  Throw yourself a party.   You will enjoy yourself.  Those around you will enjoy themselves too.  It means a lot to them.  You should celebrate this birthday with them.  Trust me.  It will be intriguing.  Let me know how it goes.  Pictures and all please.  Happy Birthday Darly.

  4. Sabaidee Ai Amphone,

    Yes, I’ve been busy trying to restore as much posts as possible from when the server crashed with no backup (backup server also crashed).

    I do understand the concept of birthday celebration and made it a point to attend my friends’ BD party. It’s a circle with no ending and so then they want to celebrate my BD too. Once I started to let them in my life and cooking for them on my BD, then each year someone would call and ask what I am going to do for my BD. It’s a Dutch thing. They make a big deal out of it to show that they care so they have to show up and be a part of your life on that "special occasion" even when  you don’t want to. So, I play along with the "social card."

    I’m a very private person and I find comforts in solitude. I don’t like crowded place and too many people make me feel suffocated. Perhaps I’m just an anti-social person. But it’s really difficult for me when this is not part of my tradition and having to sit there with people that I will probably never heard of again in the near future rather than with being with my family is not my cup of tea. If BD is about celebrating something special with your "loved ones" then it’s pointless.

    Don’t worry I will make others happy because it’s not polite to hurt their feelings. 🙂

  5. Ok ok, I dutch you.  I mean I got you.  Take it easy.  I don’t want to be any trouble.  I am an anti social person, not you. Good night.

  6. Darly,

    My mom always get my sister and I’s birthday confused. In fact, I am not even sure when my birthday is because my mom said it is April 3rd but legally it is April 24th. She said my stepdad put April 24th on the immigration paper because he didn’t remember the exact date of my birthday. Even though my mom reassures me it’s April 3rd in America but May 3rd in Laos, she just confuses me. My friends at work wishes me Happy birthday on the 24th and my family wishes me Happy Birthday on the 3rd. Confusing huh?!

  7. Good Morning Ai Amphone,

    You’re funny, I’ll have to remember that line "I Dutch you." You’re not any trouble at all and not anti-social person at all from what I can recall at the International Conference on Lao Studies.

    I shouldn’t have use the term "anti-social" because I am not that. I have been told that I am the most friendliest person that any of my friends have met at school. I do know and follow social norms, when necessary.

    When we meet in person in Laos or somewhere, then we can have all the BD party combined into one. A day in living is a cause for celebration. Each day is a new beginning for all of us to accomplish more. 🙂

  8. Hi Laotian Teacher,

    Your story reminded me of another Lao family where the mother can’t recall when all her children were born. She just pick a date and a month but give different years to each of her children at the refugee camp in Thailand.

    I attended elementary school in Laos and I didn’t even know my birthday. I don’t recall any of my teachers asking for the date of birth. There was no paperwork involved. My mother took me to school and asked if I can attend class. I had to reach over my head with one arm and since I was able to touch my ear, that was enough for me to start school.

    I was the youngest student in the class and I found out more than half of the students in the class were three years older than me. I was a good student though and even got to skip a grade. But I was the silent one in class, and only raised my hand to answer a question. That didn’t change to this day. Even right now, some students would come up to me at the end of the course and said they didn’t know I was in the same class and asked me where I was sitting, lol.

  9. Darly,

    My mom said she wrote our birthdays down in her diary, but she still has not shown it to me. Speaking of birthday celebrations, I only remember that my mom actually had a birthday party for my thirteenth one. Then when I turned sixteen she asked if I wanted to have a Mcdonald’s birthday party! Crazy, Huh?!

    That is crazy how you got into school by that simple test. Do Laotians actually have birth certificates because you know most Laotians are born at home with the help of the midwife.

  10. Hi Darly,

    To the new beginning…Go get them tigress.

    Hi Karmadiva,

    You want to join us for the all out BD blast in Laos?  Oh that would be fun. 

    Oh yeah, Laotians have birth certificate.  I saw mine when I was younger.  My dad kept all of ours.  When we were born, our parents support to report and get a birth certificate right away.  Reason that some didn’t get one made could have been, they celebrated too hard and forgot to go to town and get one made.  My dad told me, that he had to have one to go to school.  He was born in 1935. 

  11. Hi, Amphone and Darly! I was just thinking how we should have like a blog convention somewhere! I really want to go to Laos to see my grandma and cousins, but I am petrified of flying! Someone would have to use a horse tranquilezer to knock me out for the LOOOOOOOOONG plane ride!

    I am going to ask my mom why I don’t have a birth certificate especially when I as actually born in the hospital in Laos instead of through a midwife!I believe my little brother was the only one who was born at the house(hut) with a drunken midwife in attendance! Whatever she did, he came out okay. I guess she didn’t drop him on his head because he is the smartest one in the family. He’s the one with two bachelors and a PHD in clinical pharmacy.

  12. May be that’s the problem with all of us.  The midwife dropped us.  We didn’t get, I didn’t get my PHD and stuffs.
    Karmadiva, don’t worry.  A plane ride to Laos is a piece of cake.  You will be fine.  I will make you laugh all the way to Laos.  Hahahaha.

  13. Amphone! You are ridiculous and I mean that in a nice way! You do make me laugh!  Yeah, my head looks like it has been dropped on,but where is my Ph.D?!:)  I will work on a master next!

  14. Karmadiva, seems like we play around too much here. Let go back to our site and play there.  Hahahaha!:-)

  15. Hi Laotian Teacher,

    I don’t know much about Lao record keeping but I know before 1975 there was some sort of system. All legal documents were in French and Lao. Birth certificate for example was in French and Lao.

    Some of my aunts and uncles have birth certificates and some don’t. But as far as my siblings that were born in the mid 1980s, none of them had birth certificates. Like me they were born at Mahosot Hospital.

    Now there is  a household registration. All persons living under one roof must register under that address and list full name and date of birth.

    It is the same with property. Some people have deeds to their land and some don’t. But in the near future, land owners will have to register their land. Lao record keeping is improving.

  16. Hi Darly,

    Thanks for the info. I was born in 1971 so I need to ask my mom what hospital. Also, my last name was different back then before my mom remarry. It would be interesting to actually be able to get my hands on my birth certificate if that is possible. I need we had a house fire when I was very young when I lived in Vietiane and my uncle had to carry the trunks with our important stuff out of the house. Anyway, I need to call my mom and ask her!:)

  17. Hi Laotian Teacher,

    Please keep us posted when you get your birth certificate. Digging up your roots will not be easy but not impossible. If you have relatives that have kept stuff for you then it’s great. Most Lao people I know don’t do a good job at keeping things around because it’s difficult if they moved, relocated, or natural disasters such as floods. In Laos, they get floods all the time. Good luck.

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