Birthdays! They’re usually a special time of the year for most people, especially in 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.
First, we’ll start by telling you exactly how to say Happy birthday in German, and then we’ll introduce you to some interesting birthday history!
How Do You Wish Someone A Happy Birthday In German?
To wish someone a Happy birthday in German, you can use the following phrase: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, which means all the good things for your birthday.
Did You Know German’s Invented Birthdays?!
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 soon 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.
What Are The Different Ways To Say Happy Birthday In German?
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.
|Heartful congratulations on your birthday
|Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag
Saying Birthday Wishes In German
These are other phrases you can use to congratulate someone on their special day!
- Alles Gute zum Geburtstag. – All the best for your birthday
- Alles Liebe zum Geburstag. – Everything nice for your birthday
When Germans congratulate other people on social media, they will shorten the phrase by writing:
Other times German people will write:
- Alles Liebe und Gute zum Geburtstag. – Much Love and Best Wishes for Your Birthday
- Alles Liebe und Gute. – All love and good
Give A German Birthday Wish From The Heart
When you are talking to your friends and family, you may prefer to give a more heartfelt wish:
Other Phrases And Sayings For Happy Birthday In German
What Are The Do’s And Don’ts Of Birthday Celebrations In Germany
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.
1. Don’t Wish Someone Happy Birthday In Advance
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.
2. Do Start Celebrations Early – Reinfeier
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!
3. Do Bring Your Birthday Cake (And Treats Too)
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!
4. Do Make A Wish!
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.
5. Do Throw Your Own Party
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.
6. Do Pay For The Bill
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!
Unique German Birthday Traditions
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!
Gifting A Birthday Wreath
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.
You Old Sock! You Old Box!
As with the passing of childhood into youth, another interesting German cultural 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 eine alte Schachtel (an old box).
Doing Chores On Your Birthday
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.
How To Sing Happy Birthday In German
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.
German Birthday Song For Kids
This is a great song to learn some of the birthday vocabulary we’ve been learning and put into practice. Let’s get singing!
You’re All Set! Learn More German With Ling!
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.