Does the Tooth Fairy Travel Around the World?

Few things are more exciting to a child than losing his or her first tooth and leaving it under a pillow for the tooth fairy to find. During the night, the tooth fairy swaps the tooth and leaves money behind.
Of course, the tradition varies slightly from home to home in English speaking countries—some families leave several dollars behind while others leave only a few spare coins. Some children make pillows especially for the tooth fairy, and it features a small pocket on the front for the tooth. Some tech-savvy parents even have their children interact with the "real" tooth fairy over Twitter.

The tooth fairy, like Santa Claus, is steeped in tradition and mythology. Have you ever wondered if the tooth fairy tradition is spread worldwide?

Here's a quick look at the tooth fairy's role to children around the world.

The Tooth Fairy in England
Interestingly enough, the tooth fairy is a recent North American tradition, despite its timeless nature. The first printed appearance of the tooth fairy actually occurred in Franklin, OH, in 1927, as part of a three-act play for children.

However, the rituals surrounding the tooth fairy reach much further back. According to researcher B.R. Townend, every human culture has a tooth disposal tradition.

For example, children in England during the Middle Ages burned their baby teeth to save them from struggle in the afterlife. If they didn't burn their teeth, they would spend an eternity searching for the missing teeth. Many also believed this kept witches from obtaining the teeth and using them for demonic possession.

Currently, the English have adopted the modern tooth fairy tradition. According to polls conducted by MyVoucherCodes, Children in Cambridge receive an average of £5 ($8.92) per tooth.

The Tooth Fairy in Spain
The tooth fairy tradition is widespread among Spanish cultures; however, instead of a fairy, Ratoncito Perez (Raton Perez) is a mouse which exchanges the teeth for gifts.

Some children switch up the tradition by leaving their teeth in a glass of water. Raton Perez (thirsty from his teeth-collecting adventures) sees the water, drinks it, takes the tooth, and leaves his gift in the empty glass.

Raton Perez first appeared in 1877 as part of compilation of folktales. The story of the "Vain Little Mouse" later inspired Padre Coloma, who turned the mouse into the Spanish equivalent of a tooth fairy.

This story also ties into the ancient disposal tradition of feeding baby teeth to animals. If an animal eats a lost baby tooth, the new adult tooth would supposedly resemble that of the animals. For example, if a rat ate the tooth, the child's new tooth would grow in sharp and strong.

The Tooth Fairy in Japan
Sadly, the tooth fairy tradition does not extend to Asian cultures—but don't let that discourage you. They still celebrate the loss of baby teeth by throwing the teeth into the air.

If the tooth comes from the lower jaw, children throw their teeth straight up in the air and make a wish. If the tooth comes from the upper jaw, they throw the teeth straight down and do the same. The goal is to throw it straight to encourage new teeth to come in straight.

As for the wish, some children wish for their teeth to be eaten by a mouse (not Raton Perez), simply because rodents have teeth that continually grow.

The Tooth Fairy in Turkey
Turkey has a unique tooth tradition, and it doesn't involve mice or fairies. Instead, some parents believe that the first lost tooth holds the key to their child's future. They bury the tooth in the garden or yard close to where they want their child to succeed.

For example, if parents want their child to graduate from a certain university, they bury it in the garden of the university. If they want their child to become a dentist, they bury the tooth in the yard near the dentist office.

The Tooth Fairy in Jamaica
Much of Jamaican folklore revolves around duppies, or malevolent spirits that haunt people at night. The rolling calf, a huge, calf-like creature which rolls along the road and drags chains behind it, comes to the child's room at night. However, instead of taking the tooth and leaving a gift, the rolling calf comes to take both the child and the tooth.

To keep the rolling calf away, children put the lost tooth into a tin can and shake it hard. The rattling noise scares the rolling calf.

The Tooth Fairy in Your Home
While the tooth fairy doesn't visit every child in the world, you can bring fun tooth traditions into your home. No matter which tradition you grow up with, you can educate and entertain your child with fun stories from around the world.

For more fun stories that you can read to your child, try reading Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Traditions from Around the World by Selby Beeler.
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