Multi cultural pedia
A Dictionary for Learning Different Cultures the Fun Way

Goodbye to the Baby Tooth
(Various Tooth Fairy Tales around the world)

Translated by Akiko.Tsuji-san

"What do you do when a baby tooth falls out to be replaced by a permanent tooth?"

An individual is not the sole representative of the entire culture from which he comes. This individual is merely one of the representatives from that culture. There will certainly be other examples deriving from that country. Please bear this concept in mind when reading the following. If you have friends from different countries, please make inquiries concerning the topic. And if you should happen to know or hear about other various customs from the respective countries, we would appreciate it if you could share those new views with us. We encourage you to be broadminded.

Japan #1

If it is a lower baby tooth, throw it up onto the roof; and if it is an upper tooth, throw it underneath the 'en-no-shita' (the lower portion below the floor of a Japanese house). It is done so that the upper tooth grows healthy downwards, while the lower tooth upwards.

Vietnam #1

Both the upper and lower teeth are thrown up over the house.

I spoke to my students from various countries at a cafe in Omote-Sando. These people are not representing their whole culture. They represent a portion of each respective culture. There certainly must exist other various customs. If you can candidly share with us those other various options, it will immensely help us from overlooking such diversities and prevent us from stereotyping and generalizing various nationalities.

Korea #1

The same method as that of Japan.
Could this method possibly have come to Japan from Korea? Or from China?
We should surely like to find out.

United States #1

An American told me.
A child puts the baby tooth under his pillow before going to bed. A tooth fairy comes during the night and takes the tooth with her. The next morning, the child would find money underneath the pillow.

"How much was it?"
"When I was a child, it was about a dollar."
"Isn't is quite a hassle taking the tooth from under the pillow while trying not to awake him?"
"Well, she is a fairy, after all..."

France #1

A Frenchman told me.
Like the American version, the child puts his baby tooth under the pillow when he goes to bed. The fairy takes it while he is asleep, and replaces it with a present instead of money.

"What kind of present?"
"A toy car or something little like that..."

Mexico #1

A Mexican told me.
It is the same as the American and the French version, so the child goes to bed with the baby tooth under the pillow. A mouse, not a fairy, takes it during the night. She leaves some money, too.

What do the fairy and the mouse do with the baby tooth anyway?

Israel #1

I asked an Israeli.

"Do you put the baby tooth under the pillow? Or do you throw it over your house in Israel?"
"Then what do you do with it?"
"Nothing. There are some people who keep it in a tiny box."

Because idol worshipping is somewhat frowned upon in Israel, they may have to do without a fairy or a mouse.

Mongolia #1

I asked a Mongolian if they throw the baby tooth over the roof or underneath the house.

"In Mongolia, we give the baby tooth to a young dog."
"You give it to a dog?"
"Yes. In Mongolia, the dog is respected and is considered a guardian angel. We put the baby tooth in the meat fat and feed it to the young dog. When the guardian angel eats it, it is said, that a strong tooth will grow."
"No wonder it is a young dog. An old dog might choke with it."

United Kingdom #1

I asked a mother who had a homestaying experience with her daughter in Salisbury.

During their stay, her daughter's baby tooth fell out. The host couple told her daughter,
"Put your tooth under your pillow. When you wake up, the tooth will have turned into a coin."

Thank you for sharing your valuable information with us.

Hungary #1

The students from a Japanese class at Vienna University in Austria lent us their support in compiling the Hungarian version.

A Hungarian student said, "My father had put the baby tooth into a bottle with water, and the tooth melted in about two years' time."
His teacher commented that this might not be something that generally happens.

In this Multi-Cultural-Pedia, I hesitate little in presenting information that may well be one's personal habit such as the above. The episode depicts a heartwarming picture of a father who cares dearly for his child. Don't we all feel closeness to this Hungarian family?

Various customs and habits from around the world will be introduced in this Multi-Cultural-Pedia. We wanted to convey the message through this 'dictionary' that these many kinds of customs and habits were all created by people all over, who sometimes feel sad, or feel happy, just like us.

Spain #1

Students from the Japanese class at Vienna University also helped me in this Spanish version.

In Spain, a mouse replaces the baby tooth under the pillow with a coin during the night.

Slovenia #1

Here again, help from the students at Vienna University's Japanese class was available.

In Slovenia, a mouse replaces the baby tooth under the pillow with a candy during the night.

Italy #1

From the students at Vienna University, Japanese class.

In Italy, they just keep the baby tooth as a keepsake like we do with our umbilical cord. On a side note, when the students were told that we keep our umbilical cord in Japan, they thought that it quite disgusting.

Austria #1

Another help from the Japanese class students at Vienna University.

In Austria, you either make the baby tooth into a pendant head, a key ring, or throw the upper tooth under the house and the lower over the roof.

What? Throwing the upper tooth downward and the lower tooth upward is exactly the same as the custom in Japan.

Nigeria #1

We are grateful for the O.B.S. International in permitting us to reprint the custom in Nigeria regarding the baby tooth. (Please note that all rights are reserved by the O.B.S. International.)

"A tooth came out!"
Here in Nigeria, a very unique and interesting custom is practiced regarding the tooth.
A baby's first tooth comes out when he is about 7 or 8 month-old. The person, whether it be a father, mother, or just a mere acquaintance, who notices the baby's tooth is supposed to give a present to this baby. This present must be something durable. It cannot be chocolate or candy, or an 'in' item at the particular moment. Usually, a female cow, sheep, goat, or hen is presented. Not because they are edible, but because they symbolize reproduction and posterity. When the baby grows up to be an adult, he could sell the animal and gain profit by doing so.

The person who has sighted the first tooth is not to mention "the tooth came out". Then how is that person supposed to give out the message that the tooth has come out? He is supposed to say "something came out from the baby's mouth". If it is 'something' coming out from the mouth, it will likely be saliva or tooth, won't it?

If the person mistakenly said, "A tooth came out!," he would have to give a present worth double the usual amount. If you should come upon sighting a baby's first tooth when you are near broke, it would certainly play havoc on your part.

As a matter of fact, my son's first tooth came out 3 days before he turned 5 months. My husband was the discoverer. He had totally forgotten about our Nigerian custom and exclaimed, "There's his first tooth!" Therefore, my son will be the lucky recipient of a present worth double the value, that is a 'double durable present'. It sounds like a tongue twister, doesn't it?

Currently, my husband is seriously pondering upon what he should choose as the present. I do not mind anything, but honestly speaking as the wife, not a cow considering the size of our house...

A Tooth Fallen Out and a Mouse

What would you do when your baby tooth falls out?
My mother used to throw our upper baby teeth under the house and lower teeth over the roof. "May the new tooth become as strong as a mouse's!" would be her incantation when throwing the tooth. She wished for the lower teeth to grow strongly and healthy upward and the upper vice versa. I am not sure if this custom is practiced all over Japan, but do quite know that a lot of people recognize this habit.

In Nigeria, they hide the fallen out tooth in the attic. And they have an incantation as well. However, the content of the spell is somewhat different from the Japanese version. It goes like this:

"Mr. Mouse, Mr. Mouse, please do not eat this tooth. If you eat my tooth, the new tooth will not come out. If you eat my tooth, I am going to come and get you, and search all over the house for your family and kill them."
...It sounds more like a threat than an innocent spell to me (laughter). But don't you think the idea that if a mouse eats the tooth, a new tooth will not come out to be unique and amusing?

It is certainly rather amazing that a resembling custom of relating 'a tooth fallen out and a mouse" exists in Japan and Nigeria that are thousands of miles apart from each other.
We would like to appreciate the O.B.S. International for their kind cooperation and dedication.


USA #2

In regards to the Baby Tooth coming out, in my family anyway, when a tooth came out by itself, we would put it under our pillow, and the "tooth fairy" AKA mom would give us about $5 for the tooth, which we would find in the morining.However, when my brother had a baby tooth pulled out by the dentist, he put it under his pillow, and in the moring he found a tiny 14karat gold "plant-type" leaf in a small box.How my mom got that under his pillow, I will never know. ^_^
Beth Adams-san ,Santa Rosa, CA USA

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