For the first time in our house we are eagerly awaiting the tooth fairy. My 6 year old daughter acquired her first wobbly tooth 2 weeks ago after months of ‘mum, when will I get a wobbly tooth, mum why has Grace got a wobbly tooth when she is younger than me’. So now we are at the stage of wobbling her tooth constantly until it finally falls out.
From this I decided to look into the origins of the tooth fairy and if all cultures have a ‘tooth fairy’. There is actually a Tooth Fairy day which is 28th February.
The tradition of leaving a tooth under their pillow is practised in most English speaking Countries, it is custom for parents to pretend the tooth fairy has been and taken the tooth and left money or a little gift where the tooth was. Some parents also leave a trail of glitter to make it more authentic. The tradition in Northern Europe where money was paid for the child’s first tooth can be dated as far back as the 13th Century.
In England in the Middle Ages children were instructed to burn their baby teeth in order to save the child from hardship in afterlife, superstition said if the child’s teeth weren’t burnt they would spend eternity searching for them in the afterlife. Another reason to burn the teeth was to ensure witches did not get hold of them as this meant having a part of your body the witch could have total power over you. It is said the Vikings paid for children’s teeth and in Norse culture these and other children’s belongings brought good luck in battle. The modern example of these traditions into what we now know as the tooth fairy appeared in print in 1927.
In Spanish and Hispanic American cultures they have Ratoncito Perez (Perez mouse in English) which is similar to the tooth fairy, he takes on different forms in different areas but is always depicted as a mouse. This originated in Madrid in 1984 and has the same tradition as the tooth fairy. In Italy, France and French Speaking Belgium the tooth fairy is also a little mouse.
In India, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam it is customary for the child to throw the tooth onto the roof if it came from the lower jaw or into the floor space if it came from the upper jaw. When they do this they shout a request for the tooth to be replaced with the tooth of a mouse. The tradition is based on the fact that the teeth of mice grow for their whole lives.
In middle Eastern countries the tradition is to throw the tooth up into the sky to Allah, this tradition may date back to at least the 13th century.
So whichever culture you are from it’s good to keep the spirit of the tooth fairy alive and can even help to ensure your children keep their teeth clean as the tooth fairy only takes clean teeth.