You might be surprised to hear that every culture has a tradition for disposing of baby teeth and that the Tooth Fairy, as we know her in the United States, is only one of many. In many countries, the teeth are actually given to a mouse or rat with the hope that the child’s adult teeth will grow to be as strong as the animal’s. The creation of today’s gift-bearing tooth fairy is a very recent American tradition, which was influenced mainly by the fairies of European folklore and Disney films.
So why do we place teeth under the pillow? It is believed that this tradition comes from a European custom of burying baby teeth in the ground.
And why do we give children money for their teeth? Tand-fe’ or tooth fee is another European tradition where children are paid for their first tooth.
Now, my son is 5 years old and he hasn’t lost any of his baby teeth yet, so we haven’t started any traditions of our own. I do remember as a child my mother wrapping our baby teeth in little packages of tissue and tape before placing them under our pillows. She recently told me that she has all of our teeth (I have two younger siblings) in zipper bags hidden away. We wouldn’t receive much for our teeth, but I remember receiving more when I had to have a few baby teeth extracted to prepare for braces.
What tooth fairy traditions do you remember from childhood?
What traditions have you started with your own children?