Birthdays! They're usually a special time of year for most people, especially Germany. In this article, we'll cover special and unique German birthday customs, all the different ways to wish someone a happy birthday in German, sing German birthday songs, and celebrate one's birthday in Germany. Let's get started with a bit of interesting birthday history!
Well, sort of. Of course, people have always celebrated birthdays in one way or another, but they weren't always celebrated with cake.
During the Middle Ages, German bakers discovered they could make some extra cash by marketing Geburtstagstorten (birthday cakes) to parents for children's birthdays. It brought about the invention of Kinderfest (child celebration).
At first, only the wealthy could afford to celebrate Kinderfest. Still, with the ushering in of wealth for all during the Industrial Revolution, soon, the masses were able to enjoy birthday cakes on their birthdays. This birthday tradition then traveled the world and has become a standard birthday practice in many nations.
Herzlichen Glückwunsch is the most common way to wish someone a happy birthday. It is a slightly different version of happy birthday. The word herzlich translates to heartful or from the heart, and Glückwunsch means congratulations.
|Herzlichen Glückwunsch||Heartful congratulations|
|Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag||Heartful congratulations on your birthday|
These are other phrases you can use to congratulate someone on their special day!
When Germans congratulate other people on social media they will shorten the phrase by writing:
Other times German people will write:
When you are talking to your friends and family, you may prefer to give a more heartfelt wish:
|Wünsche dir einen wunderschönen Geburtstag.||I wish you a wonderful birthday|
|Ich wünsche dir einen schönen Tag mit Freunden und Familiex.||I wish you a special day with friends and family|
|Wünsche dir Freude und Gesundheit für dein Leben.||I wish you happiness and health in your life|
|Ich wünsche dir ein glückliches und langes Leben.||I wish you a happy and long life|
|Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!||All the best on your birthday!|
|Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!||Heartfelt congratulations on your birthday!|
|Viel Glück zum Geburtstag!||Best of luck on your birthday!|
|Alles Liebe zum Geburtstag.||Much love on your birthday|
|Von Herzen alles Gute zum Geburtstag.||From the heart, all the best on your birthday|
|Ich wünsche Ihnen ein gesundes und erfolgreiches neues Lebensjahr!||I wish you ______ a healthy and prosperous new year of life!|
|Es lebe das Geburtstagskind!||Long live the birthday child!|
|Viel Gesundheit, Glück und Zufriedenheit dem Geburtstagskind.||Much health, happiness and contentment for the birthday child|
|Nachträglich alles Gute zum Geburtstag.||Happy belated birthday|
As with any culture, it's good to be aware of cultural differences. You don't want to ruin someone's birthday, do you?! Discover what you can and can't do when celebrating birthdays in Germany.
Who would've thought Germans would be so superstitious? It turns out that they are on birthdays. If you're going to miss a friend, family member, or coworker's birthday, the one thing you don't want to do is wish them a happy birthday in advance. Doing so is considered extremely bad luck!
The Geburtstagskind (birthday 'child') will take great offense, and you may cause worry before their special day.
While you're not supposed to utter the word Geburtstagskind (happy birthday) in advance, you're completely allowed to begin celebrating early.
A Reinfeier (to celebrate into) is a German birthday party where friends and family get together with the birthday person and begin events the evening before the birthday. It's celebrated much like New Year's Eve, where the party goes on until the strike of midnight, and then you call wish as many Geburtstagskinds as you want to!
In Germany, it's expected that you (the birthday person) bring your cake to work to celebrate with your coworkers. It's also nice to bring in other sweets and treats to share.
The same rule applies to children celebrating birthdays at school. Children are to bring in cakes and treats to share with teachers and classmates. In Germany, birthdays are all about sharing!
Like Western traditions, you can make a wish when you blow out the candles on your cake. But in Germany, you're not supposed to tell a soul. If you utter a peep of it to anyone, it won't come true.
Also, if you fail to blow out all the candles, it's believed your wish won't come true either.
Yep! It is very different from western traditions where you have that rare friend who just LOVES their birthday. In Germany, you're supposed to plan and throw a big birthday party for yourself and invite all of your friends. Keep in mind having a party isn't mandatory. If you want to have a big birthday celebration, then it's up to you to plan it all.
Sometimes your friends may take you out for a lovely birthday meal! The catch is, the bill is on you! At a minimum, you'll be expected to pay for your bill, and sometimes there's the expectation that you'll pay for everyone else. It's the one time when you can treat your family and friends!
Different regions in Germany have their own, shall we say, unique ways to show birthday wishes. Let's look at the interesting birthday customs that happen only in Germany!
A German birthday wreath is usually made from wood and has 12 candle holders. The reason it has 12 is that each candle represents a single year in a child's life. Each year, another candle will be lit until the age of 12, when childhood reaches its completion (at least in Germany anyway). There's also one big candle in the middle of the circle to symbolize good luck.
This tradition is meant to occur for children's birthdays in Germany. However, it's common for close family members to continue this tradition well into adulthood as a nostalgic tradition.
As with the passing of childhood into youth, another interesting German culture birthday tradition is to celebrate the passing of your youth. In northern Germany, there is a tradition where the men who are turning 25 receive a Sockenkranz (a sock garland).
This sock garland represents the phrase Du alte Socke! (You old sock!), and is meant as a reminder that you're leaving your youth behind. It's not just a bunch of socks, though. You're also expected to roll out the socks and take a shot of alcohol every few meters until you reach the end of the garland.
For women turning 25, there's a different rendition of leaving one's youth. Women are a garland of cartons (usually about the size of cigarette boxes) and become officially eine alte Schachtel (an old box).
Well, this seems an odd thing to do on your birthday! On a single woman's 30th birthday, you're expected to clean a few door handles or doorknobs - with a toothbrush - while everyone watches you!
If you are a single guy turning 30, you're expected to sweep the stairs of a building in a busy part of town wearing a ridiculous costume!
Your friends might even throw things at you to make it harder to clean up to make this even more embarrassing.
German translation of the song that says "Zum Geburtstag viel Glück" instead of "happy birthday to you." The phrase means "Best of luck on your birthday." Here are the lyrics to Happy Birthday in German:
Zum Geburstag viel Glück,
zum Geburtstag viel Glück,
zum Geburtstag liebe / lieber ...
zum Geburtstag viel Glück.
Best of luck on your birthday,
Best of luck on your birthday,
For your birthday dear (name),
Best of luck on your birthday.
This is a great song to learn some of the birthday vocabularies we've been learning and put them into practice. Let's get singing!
You're now fully prepared to dive into any German birthday celebrations! You've learned how to express birthday wishes in the German language and so much more. Now it's time to increase your skills in this astonishing language and learn how to introduce yourself or ways to greet people in German.
Would you like to learn more German language phrases and fun facts? Then head over to Ling. our language app will prepare you for all sorts of adventures in Germany by teaching you to read, write, speak and listen to the German language.
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