When my husband was a little boy, he plopped his freshly yanked tooth onto his mother’s palm. She shrieked and tossed it out the window. It seems her reaction is not that unusual … at least not in some countries. And all this time I thought the Tooth Fairy was universal.
For the curious, here is how losing a baby tooth is celebrated around the globe:
Austria – If the little tooth isn’t turned into a pendant or a key ring, it is thrown. Upper teeth are thrown under the house and lower teeth are tossed over the roof.
England – In the Middle Ages, children were told to toss their teeth into a fire. It was believed that if the tooth were destroyed in fire the tooth could not be captured by a witch, who could then burn it and steal power from the child. These days, the Brits rely on the Tooth Fairy to snatch the tooth from under a pillow, leaving money behind.
Europe – Years ago it was common practice for Europeans to bury baby teeth in the ground so that a permanent tooth would grow back in its place. In later years, especially those who didn’t have vast land at their disposal, baby teeth were buried in flowerpots. Eventually, even Europeans gave into the practice of the Tooth Fairy, who left money in place of the teeth.
France – The French Tooth Fairy takes tiny teeth from under pillows, but she leaves toys instead of money behind.
Japan, Korea and Vietnam – Like the Austrians, the Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese toss the upper teeth under the house and the lower ones over the house. This gesture is to promote healthy growth downward of top teeth and upward of lower teeth.
Mexico and Spain – In Mexican tradition, the Tooth Fairy is a mouse. That little mouse creeps under pillows and leaves money in exchange for the baby tooth.
Mongolia – Dogs are considered guardian angels in Mongolia. To ensure the growth of a healthy permanent tooth following the loss of a baby tooth, that baby tooth is stuffed into meat fat and fed to a dog.
Slovenia – Much like the Mexicans, a mouse visits children while they sleep. But this one replaces the baby tooth with candy.
United Kingdom – When a child loses a baby tooth, he puts the tooth under his pillow. In the morning he finds that his tooth has mysteriously turned into a coin!
United States – The practice of placing the baby tooth under the child’s pillow for the Tooth Fairy to pick up and leave money behind dates back more than a hundred years. Some say the fairy evolved form the tooth mouse, depicted in an 18th Century fairy tale, “La Bonne Petite Souris,” in which a mouse turns into a fairy to help a good queen defeat a mean king by hiding under his pillow and knocking all his teeth.