Birthdays are a special occasion celebrated worldwide, but have you ever wondered how to say “Happy Birthday” in different languages? It’s fascinating how each language has its own distinctive way of conveying birthday greetings.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the German language and uncover the art of wishing someone a happy birthday in German. Whether you’re looking to impress a German-speaking friend or simply curious about German culture, this article is for you. So, let’s explore the ins and outs of birthday greetings in German and make your next celebration a memorable one!
The History of Celebrating Birthdays in Germany
Right before we delve into the crux of this guide, it’s important you have a fair understanding of how German birthday celebrations came to be.
These celebrations can be traced back to ancient Germanic and Slavic tribes, who believed that the celebrant’s spirit was particularly vulnerable to evil spirits on their special day. To protect them, friends and family would gather around the birthday person to ward off any negative energy.
Fast forward to modern times, and Germans continue to celebrate birthdays with close friends and family, typically with a big birthday meal and cake. The song “Happy Birthday” is also sung in German, although the traditional birthday song is “Zum Geburtstag viel Glück,” which means “best wishes on your birthday.”
Gifts are also exchanged among Germans on birthdays, but they often follow a German gift custom known as the “Goldenen Siebzig,” or “golden seventy.”
This tradition dictates that gifts should be within 70% of the cost of the giver’s age (for example, a 30-year-old would give a gift worth roughly 21 euros).
Birthdays in Germany are also marked with small flags on the birthday person’s front door or mailbox. This is a way for neighbors and passersby to join in the celebration and wish them a wonderful birthday.
How to Say Happy Birthday in German
Now that you have an idea of Germany’s birthday history, let’s get right into the lesson.
Did you know that saying “happy birthday” in German is as easy as eating a crunchy pie? All you have to do is say, “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!” This directly translates to “heartfelt congratulations on your birthday.”
But if you want to add some extra flair to your greeting, you can also say “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag,” which means “All the best on your birthday.”
No matter which phrase you choose, make sure to follow it up with a warm hug or a cheerful gesture to really drive the sentiment home.
How to Sing German Birthday Song in German and The English Translation
- Start by saying “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag” which means “Happy birthday”
- Followed by the person’s name, “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, (insert name here)”
- End with “Herzlichen Glückwunsch” which means “best wishes”
- The English translation for the Happy Birthday song in German is “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear (insert name), happy birthday to you.”
- Now that you know the lyrics, go ahead and sing it with your friends and family at their birthday celebrations!
Eight Common Phrases at a German Birthday Party
Here are common phrases you can adopt at a German Birthday party;
- Alles Gute zum Geburtstag” pronounced – “Happy Birthday”
- “Herzlichen Glückwunsch” – “Best wishes/congratulations”
- “Viel Glück und Erfolg” – “Much luck and success”
- “Gesundheit und Wohlergehen” – “Health and well-being”
- “Ein langes Leben” – “A long life”
- “Viel Spaß beim Feiern” – “Have fun celebrating”
- “Möge all deine Wünsche in Erfüllung gehen” – “May all of your wishes come true”
- “Ich freue mich, dass wir zusammen feiern können” – “I am happy that we can celebrate together”
These phrases will help you blend in seamlessly at your next German birthday party!
Six Top German Birthday Customs and What They Stand For
Apart from the Reinfeiern tradition, which is the culture of celebrating your birthday on the eve of your actual birthday, there are several other German birthday traditions and customs that hold strong.
- The “Geburtstag Schwein,” or birthday pig, is a small figurine made out of marzipan, chocolate, or porcelain that is given as a gift on the eve of someone’s birthday. It symbolizes good luck and wealth in the coming year.
- “Geburtstagskind” or birthday child is the person whose birthday it is. This term emphasizes their special place on their birthday and the attention they should receive.
- “Geburtstagstorte” or birthday cake is usually a rich dessert, often with layers and decorated with frosting and candles. The number of candles typically corresponds to the age of the birthday person and making a wish before blowing them out is part of the tradition.
- “Glückwünsche” or birthday wishes are expressed to the birthday person, either verbally or through cards. This tradition represents showing love and appreciation for the individual.
- “Geburtstagskranz” or birthday wreath is a decorative circle of flowers, leaves, and ribbons that is hung on the front door of the birthday person’s house. It symbolizes celebration and joy.
- “Geburtstagslied” or birthday song is a specific tune sung to the birthday person while presenting them with their cake, often with the entire group joining in. This tradition represents sharing in the joy of the occasion and bringing everyone together.
Overall, these traditions all revolve around celebrating the birthday person and wishing them a happy and prosperous year ahead. So next time you attend a German birthday celebration, make sure to take part in these traditions!
Fun Games and Activities That Will Help Add Spice to Your German-Themed Birthday Party.
Here are some fun games and activities that will help add spice to your next German-themed party.
- “Sauerkraut Tasting“. Have your guests try different types of sauerkraut and see who can guess the flavors the best. This activity not only adds to the German theme but also introduces your guests to a traditional German dish.
- “Biertrinken”. Set up a beer-tasting station with various German beers for your guests to try and see who can guess the types correctly. Make sure to also include non-alcoholic options for those who don’t drink.
- “Sausage Toss”. Set up a bean bag toss game, but instead of bean bags use mini sausages as the toss items. This adds a fun twist to the classic game and ties into the German theme.
- “Prost!”. Teach your guests how to properly cheer in German (“Prost!”) before having a toast with German beer or wine.
- “German Trivia”. Test your guests’ knowledge of Germany with a trivia game all about the country’s history, culture, and famous figures. This activity is not only entertaining but also educational. Happy birthday and viel Spaß! (meaning “have fun” in German)
- “Der Pabst ist Tot” (The Pope is Dead). This game involves passing a small trinket or object around in a circle while music plays. When the music stops, whoever is holding the object must exclaim “Der Pabst ist tot!” and quickly place it on their forehead without using their hands. The last person to successfully do so is out of the game.
- “Fingerhakeln” (Finger Wrestling)
This traditional Bavarian sport involves two players sitting opposite each other and gripping their opponent’s hand with their own, attempting to force them to touch the table with their knuckles.
- “Biergarten Relay”. Divide your guests into teams and have them compete in various activities, such as chugging a beer, carrying a stein filled with water using only their teeth, and rolling a keg.
- “Kartoffel Sackrennen” (Potato Sack Race) . Have your guests hop to the finish line in a large potato sack for a classic party game.
- “Hammer Schiessen” (Hammer Shooting). Hang balloons from the ceiling and have your guests try to pop them using only a plastic hammer.
- “Bier Pong”. A popular American beer pong variation, but with a German twist: replace the traditional red solo cups with mini steins. Prost!
Popular Dishes Served on a German Birthday
Apart from the beer and sausages that Germans love dearly, a popular dish served on a German birthday is schnitzel. Wiener Schnitzel, which means “Viennese cutlet” in German, is a highly regarded and authentic Austrian dish. Its significance is so profound that it is protected by Austrian law, and only veal is used to prepare it.
The process of making Wiener Schnitzel involves pounding the veal until it is thin, coating it in breadcrumbs, and deep-frying it in lard or clarified butter. Despite being fried, this dish is known for its lightness, tenderness, and delicacy. To make Wiener Schnitzel from scratch, this process is a must.
Another common dish is bratwurst, a grilled sausage that can be served on a bun with added toppings like sauerkraut or mustard. It is commonly enjoyed as a street food or at outdoor events such as festivals or markets. In addition to being a staple of German cuisine, bratwurst has gained popularity in other parts of the world and is widely available in many international food markets.
Another popular dish is Rouladen, which is rolled beef slices filled with bacon, onions, and pickles. This dish is often served alongside potatoes and red cabbage. With boiled or mashed potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage, roulade makes a hearty and satisfying main course. This dish is popular not only in Germany but also in other parts of Europe, and it has become a staple of traditional German cuisine.
Black Forest Cake
The cake is typically seasoned with warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, which perfectly complement the fruity notes of the apples. Apfelkuchen is often served with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which adds a rich and creamy contrast to the sweet and tender cake.
This classic German dessert is a perfect treat for any occasion. A festive dessert option is Black Forest Cake, a chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and cherries. This cake features several layers of chocolate sponge cake that are soaked in cherry brandy and then filled with a luscious combination of whipped cream and tart cherries.
The “Rinderrouladen” is another dish you may want to consider. Rinderrouladen, also known as beef roulades, is a classic German dish that is both hearty and delicious. The dish features thinly sliced beef that is rolled up with a filling of sautéed onions, smoky bacon, and tangy pickles. The beef rolls are then seared and slowly cooked in a flavorful sauce made with beef broth, red wine, and spices until they are tender and bursting with flavor.
“Schweinebraten,” or roasted pork, is also a common dish, often served with dumplings and sauerkraut. This dish is often served with traditional German accompaniments such as dumplings, which are made from potato or bread dough, and tangy sauerkraut, which is a fermented cabbage dish that adds a zesty and acidic contrast to the rich pork. Schweinebraten is a comforting and satisfying meal that is perfect for celebratory occasions.
I’m sure you’re salivating over these delectable dishes by now. Another such is “Kaiserschmarrn.” The dish features shredded pancakes that are cooked until they are fluffy and golden brown and then topped with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Kaiserschmarrn is often served as a sweet dessert option and can be paired with a variety of toppings, such as fresh fruit, jam, or caramel sauce.
Finally, “Apfelkuchen,” or apple cake, is a popular choice for birthdays and other celebrations in Germany. The cake is typically seasoned with warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, which perfectly complement the fruity notes of the apples. Apfelkuchen is often served with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which adds a rich and creamy contrast to the sweet and tender cake. This classic German dessert is a perfect treat for any occasion.
Each of these dishes often goes well with a cold German beer or a glass of Riesling wine, and you should endeavor to do some savory exploration.
15 Other Ways to Say Happy Birthday in German and English Versions
- Alles Gute zum Geburtstag – Happy Birthday
- Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag – Best wishes for your birthday
- Viel Glück und alles Gute zum Geburtstag – Good luck and all the best on your birthday
- Wir wünschen dir alles Gute zum Geburtstag – We wish you all the best on your birthday
- Viel Glück und viele gute Wünsche zum Geburtstag – Good luck and lots of good wishes on your birthday
- Gesundheit, Glück und alles Gute zum Geburtstag – Health, happiness and all the best on your birthday
- Möge dein besonderer Tag voller Freude sein – May your special day be filled with joy. Mögen alle deine Wünsche in Erfüllung gehen – May all your wishes come true
- Möge dein Tag so hell leuchten wie die Kerzen auf deiner Torte – May your day shine as bright as the candles on your cake
- Einen tollen Geburtstag voller Überraschungen – A fantastic birthday filled with surprises
- Einen Tag voller Spaß und Freude – A day filled with fun and joy
- Möge dein Geburtstag so glücklich sein wie du es verdienst – May your birthday be as happy as you deserve
- Mögen alle deine Träume wahr werden – May all your dreams come true
On your next attempt, you can wish your friend in any of these 15 different phrases. After all, there’s no harm in being versatile.
Frequently Asked Questions About Saying Happy Birthday in German
Here are 15 other ways to send your birthday wishes in German. Variety is the spice of life, so we compiled this list so you can have enough to pick from.
You could say, “Ich wünsche Ihnen alles Gute zum Geburtstag.”
You could say “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!” or “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!”
Say Nachträglich alles Gute zum Geburtstag to wish someone a Belated Birthday
A German birthday party is incomplete without a selection of savory and sweet treats. Traditionally, there are usually several dishes served at the celebration.
A typical German birthday menu would include dishes such as schnitzel, bratwurst, potato salad, pretzels, bread rolls, cheese platters, and cakes.
So, whether you opt for the formal “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag” or the more familiar “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag,” remember to put extra emphasis on the word “Geburtstag” and add the person’s name at the end. With these simple tips, you’re ready to spread some birthday cheer auf Deutsch!