traditions from around the world
one’s baby teeth is a universal experience, and in many Western
countries a tooth fairy will exchange them for money. "When my son
Arthur started losing his teeth at 6, we told him to put the tooth
under his pillow and the tooth fairy would come at night to give him
money," said Matt Roberts, father of two. "Then we put a little
money, like 10 kuai,
or sometimes a little toy, under his pillow."
tooth fairy’s origins are thought to be rooted in an 18th century
French fairy tale called "La Bonne Petite Souris," where a fairy
changes into a mouse to help a good queen defeat an evil king by
hiding under his pillow to torment him and knock out all his teeth.
In Spain, a tooth mouse, known as "Ratoncito Perez," substitutes
a tooth under a pillow for money or sweets. In Mexico, children leave
their baby teeth next to a mouse hole, outdoors, or anyplace they
think a mouse will find it.
traditions include burning teeth, as is the practice in Cornwall,
thought to be a way to prevent crooked teeth, or "snaggles." In
Malta, children bury their tooth in a flowerpot so that the new
tooth, like a plant, will emerge. Brazilian children will leave lost
teeth for birds, though only clean ones will be rewarded – an extra
incentive for children to brush every day. In Chile, Columbia and
Costa Rica, a child’s first lost tooth is often made into a charm.
Indian and Iraqi families throw baby teeth towards the sun while
saying a prayer for strong and healthy ones to replace them.
Greece, there is the tradition of throwing the baby tooth onto the
roof, and this ritual is accompanied by the reciting of a rhyme
loosely translated as follows: ‘Take sow, my tooth, and give me an
iron one so that I can chew rusks’. But not all kids would hope for
an iron tooth. "If it’s a girl, parents sometimes tell their
daughter to leave her tooth under the pillow so she will dream about
the boy that she will marry in the future," says Emmanuel Stantzos,
who hails from Greece and is a father to a teenage girl.
Chinese families dispose of the milk teeth in a similar way,
depending on whether it is an upper or lower tooth: Lower teeth are
tossed onto a roof so new teeth will grow up, while upper teeth are
lobbed into a sewer so their replacements will grow down, and this
ritual is often accompanied by a chant or rhyme. This tradition is
still practiced in the countryside and small towns in China.
According to Kuang Li Ying, a radio broadcaster who now lives in
Beijing, "Whenever I lost a baby tooth, my parents would wrap it up
in a piece of paper and throw it on the roof. It was a lot of fun for
us kids and I’d be hoping for the next one to fall out." In the
cities, practice of this tradition is not as common, and some
families don’t do anything at all, like Chen Tong, father of
10-year-old Taotao. "I’ve heard that some families keep baby
teeth, maybe even make them into a necklace for the kids to keep, but
we don’t have any traditions like that," he said. "We actually
kept one of the teeth for a while as a souvenir, but ended up
throwing it away."
customs surrounding this childhood rite of passage can be as varied
as the languages spoken by its practitioners, losing a tooth is an
experience in which all kids – and parents – can relate.
know how to say it?
Can’t understand what you’re hearing?
to the rescue!
lose a tooth