October 28, 2021 4:08 PM   Subscribe

What song is traditionally sung in your family, friend group, organization, or country to mark birthdays? I'm looking for songs to mark friends' birthdays that they might not have heard before .

In the US, the most common song sung to others on their birthday is this one. [Complicated backstory here].

In my Quaker meeting, they mark birthdays with this birthday song by Tom Chapin.

What birthday songs are sung in your circles? If you have a favorite traditional or non-traditional birthday video you'd like to share, please include that here.
posted by QuakerMel to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I sing "Geburtstagskind", a song in German celebrating a child whose birthday it is, at all of our family birthdays. I learned it in German class in high school, where we sang it to everyone whose birthday it was, but it apparently is not traditionally sung anywhere in Germany. Also, I'm not entirely sure if anyone else in my family enjoys it, but I sure sing it at each one because I love doing it.

Geburtstagskind, Geburtstagskind nun sind wir alle da,
wir wünschen dir, wir wünschen dir ein frohes neues Jahr.
Die Blumen, die wir haben, die sollen es dir sagen:
Wir haben dich so lieb! Wir haben dich so lieb!

posted by zsazsa at 4:33 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

In Quebec and some other francophone communities in Canada they sing Gens du Pays song (I sang it in elementary school in NS. Didn't realize it was a sovereigntist anthem til just now.)
posted by stray at 4:42 PM on October 28 [3 favorites]

Among my friends, who are big Simpsons nerds, we sing the Wall E Weasel Generic Birthday Song.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 4:52 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]

We sing Lang Zal Ze Leven, the traditional birthday song of the Netherlands.
posted by neushoorn at 4:54 PM on October 28 [3 favorites]

The Birthday Dirge continues to be popular with people with at least some exposure to the Society for Creative Anachronism.
posted by Candleman at 5:31 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]

In Sacred Harp circles, we often commemorate a birthday with the very lively 436 Morning Sun, whose lyrics are thus:

Youth, like the spring, will soon be gone,
By fleeting time or conqu’ring death;
Your morning sun may set at noon,
And leave you ever in the dark.
Your sparkling eyes and blooming cheeks
Must wither like the blasted rose;
The coffin, earth, and winding sheet
Will soon your active limbs enclose.
posted by Orlop at 5:51 PM on October 28 [8 favorites]

Among my brothers we've taken to appending the following chorus to the traditional birthday song:
Why was he born so beautiful?
Why was he born at all?
He’s no bloody good to anyone.
He’s no bloody use at all!
...which we sing with great gusto. It must be from something, probably British, I know not what.
posted by Rash at 8:20 PM on October 28 [7 favorites]

I'm in a weird online group of nerds (no, not this one) and our tradition is to sing a birthday song to the tune of Hocus Pocus (by Focus).

So like thing of a kind of speedy version of

posted by jessamyn at 8:23 PM on October 28 [3 favorites]

Las Mananitas is a Mexican classic, at least so every Spanish class I've taken would have me believe.

My mother still gleefully sings TMBG's Older to me every year.
posted by theweasel at 8:32 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]

My late father-in-law always sang (to the tune of the traditional American "Happy Birthday"):
May you live a thousand years
May you drink a thousand beers
Get plastered, you bastard
Happy birthday to you!
posted by Daily Alice at 8:35 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]

My extended friend group has this one, which I love:

This is your birthday song!
It isn't very long.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:51 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]

I’ve heard a totally different happy birthday song sung by mostly Black people in New Orleans which after some googling I’m pretty sure is the “happy birthday to ya” part of this Steve Wonder song
posted by MadamM at 10:31 PM on October 28

In Germany, the round, or canon, Viel Glück und viel Segen.

Also, Wie schön, daß Du geboren bist. By Rolf Zukowski. Best line: we are glad that you exist/otherwise you would be missed!
posted by starfishprime at 10:58 PM on October 28

Here in Greece, we sing this song for birthdays. I like the lyrics.

Χρόνια πολλά

Να ζήσεις _____ και χρόνια πολλά,
μεγάλος, -η να γίνεις με άσπρα μαλλιά.
Παντού να σκορπίζεις της γνώσης το φως
και όλοι να λένε να ένας/μία σοφός.

Happy Birthday (literally: many years)

May you live (name), and many years,
May you become old with white hair.
May you spread the light of knowledge everywhere
And may everyone say, here is a wise one.
posted by Concordia at 11:05 PM on October 28 [3 favorites]

Western Massachusetts contra dancing gatherings sing a Birthday Round.

We wish you a happy birthday,
A joyous and celebrated birthday,
To our....dear....[person’s name],
May you have a long, long life.

This is in the song book Rise Again, entry in their Music Box with two YouTube videos for learning the tune.
posted by flicken at 3:04 AM on October 29

The appendage Rise mentions is generally associated with Australia and no one clearly knows the origin (maybe rugby?) per this very in depth Wikipedia discussion page for July 7th.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:51 AM on October 29

In Afrikaans, the traditional HBD song is "Veels geluk liewe maatjie" (another video)

Veels geluk liewe maatjie omdat jy verjaar
Mag die Here jou seën en nog baie jare spaar

translates to ...

Congratulations dear friend on your birthday
May the Lord bless you and may you have many years ahead
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 6:16 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]

My wife loves to send people a personalized Epic Birthday Song for their birthdays.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:55 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]

It is tradition at my office for our office director to sing the first verse of Tom Glazer's Hooray! Today is Your Birthday.

However, it must be done on your actual birthday (no early/belated celebrations) and it has to be done in person. Also everyone has to clap along.
posted by Preserver at 7:48 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]

Well, this one might not fly at your Quaker meeting, but my sister and I sing it to each other on our birthdays, to the tune of "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas."

Have a happy, crappy birthday;
You've survived another year.
I don't know if there'll be cake;
I didn't bake one, dear.
Have a happy, crappy birthday,
And in case you didn't hear,
*clap* *clap* *clap*
And have a happy, crappy birthday
This year!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:58 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]

Australian, then. Thanks, cobaltnine. But -- Rise?
posted by Rash at 9:49 AM on October 29

Las Mananitas is a Mexican classic

Can confirm. Sending in a Mariachi band in the morning to someones bedroom and play Las Mañanitas for them is not unheard of.
posted by vacapinta at 11:00 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]

In Canadian Anglo Catholic circles in Montreal and Toronto Rash's song is also sung
posted by PinkMoose at 12:03 PM on October 29

“This is your birthday song
It isn’t very long.”
posted by dorothy hawk at 1:05 PM on October 29

I’ve heard a totally different happy birthday song sung by mostly Black people in New Orleans which after some googling I’m pretty sure is the “happy birthday to ya” part of this Steve Wonder song
posted by MadamM at 1:31 AM on October 29 [+] [!]

Yep, it is pretty common in my immediate and extended family to sing part of the Stevie Wonder song for birthdays (Black, Northeastern USA)
posted by Julnyes at 10:31 AM on November 1

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