The end of year winter season is a time when many of my family and friends celebrate their birthdays. This year I came across a Cantonese birthday song beyond the basic “happy birthday” / 生日快樂 that made me ponder whether other such “folk” birthday songs existed.

What are people singing about when they sing a common happy birthday song in their own language?

Let’s start with the baseline:


Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear <NAME>
Happy birthday to you

Origin: an American children’s 1911 songbook derived from various earlier works going back to 1850s, possibly further.


(Additional “forgotten” verses to the same tune)

From good friends and true
From old friends and new
May good luck go with you
And happiness too

How old are you now?
How old are you now?
How old, How old
How old are you now?

(Joke version)

Happy Birthday to you
You live in a zoo
You look like a monkey
And you act like one too

(For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow - alternate celebratory song commonly used on birthdays)

For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us
And so say all of us, and so say all of us
For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow (pause), and so say all of us!

Origin: Wikipedia entry


Cantonese Chinese


> Wishing you good fortune, health, and stability 

> Let's congratulate the dawn of your birth   

> Let this day come every year

> Let there be a beginning for every age

> We celebrate you

> We celebrate you

Origin: 1960s pop-opera song


(Joke version)

> Well done on cracking your head open on your birthday

> Congratulations on dying, bury your dad too  

> Every year you'll be a beggar

> Every year you'll sleep on the street 

> Congratulations to you

> Congratulations to you

(Alternate, same tune as happy birthday)

Friends gather in celebration

Singing this song all around

Together wishing you joy

Congratulations this happy birthday 

Origin: unknown


Mandarin Chinese


Curiously, Mandarin Chinese doesn’t have any happy birthday songs which aren’t direct translations of the modern English happy birthday song to the exact tune. This is likely due to a traditionally significant cultural difference for counting age originating from China: East Asian age reckoning.



Like Mandarin Chinese, Japanese also sing “happy birthday” literally to the same tune as the English version; straightforward due to modern adaptation of birthday practices from western culture.


생일 축하합니다

As with the majority of other CJK (Chinese Japanese Korean) languages, there aren’t any alternate happy birthday songs; a standard substitution in Korean for the same tune.


төрсөн өдрийн мэнд хүргэе

Likely same as other East Asian languages above.


(Bon anniversaire)

Bon anniversaire, nos vœux les plus sincères
> Happy birthday, our most sincere wishes 

Que ces quelques fleurs vous apportent le bonheur
> That these flowers bring you joy

Que l'année entière vous soit douce et légère
> That this entire year will be sweet and light to you 

Et que l'an fini, nous soyons tous réunis
> And that at the year's end we'll reunite with you 

Pour chanter en chœur :"Bon Anniversaire!"
> To sing in chorus: "Happy birthday!"

Origin: the film Un jour avec vous (1951).


(Alternate Quebecois version)

Notre chère <NAME>
> Our dear <NAME>

C’est à ton tour de te laisser parler d’amour
> It's your turn to let yourself speak of love

Notre chère <NAME>
> Our dear <NAME>

C’est à ton tour de te laisser parler d’amour
> It's your turn to let yourself speak of love


Feliz, feliz en tu día
> Happy happiness in your day

amiguito que Dios te bendiga
> God bless you, my litte friend

que reine la paz en tu vida
> That peace reigns in your life  

y que cumplas muchos más
> And have more years

Origin: Hispanic TV clown trio song from around the 1960s


(Mexican version: Las Mañanitas)

Estas son las mañanitas
> These are “Las Mañanitas”

que cantaba el rey David
> that King David used to sing.

hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.
> Today because it's your birthday; we sing them to you.

Despierta, <NAME>, mi bien despierta,
> Wake up <NAME>, my love, wake up. 

mira que ya amaneció,
> Look at what has dawned,

ya los pajaritos cantan, la luna ya se metió.
> Already the little birds are singing, the moon already went in.

Qué linda está la mañana
> How pretty is the morning 

en que vengo a saludarte
> In which I come to greet you.

venimos todos con gusto
> We all came with pleasure

y placer a felicitarte.
> and joy to congratulate you.

El día en que tu naciste,
> On the day you were born

nacieron todas las flores,
> All the flowers were born.

y en la pila del bautismo,
> At the baptismal font

cantaron los ruiseñores.
> The mockingbirds sang.

Ya viene amaneciendo,
> It is starting to be dawn,

ya la luz del día nos dio.
> The day has given us light.

Levántate de mañana,
> Get up in the morning,

mira que ya amaneció.
> Look that it has already dawned.

Origin: Zacatecas, Mexico circa 1896.


Very nice lyrics. Personally am a fan of this long-form birthday song!


(Hoch soll er leben)

Hoch soll sie/er leben! 
> Long may she/he live!

Hoch soll sie/er leben!
> Long may she/he live!

Dreimal hoch! 
> Three cheers!

Origin: chant from at least the 1960s, likely much older


(Wie schön, dass du geboren bist)

Wie schön, dass du geboren bist 
> How wonderful that you were born

wir hätten dich sonst sehr vermisst
> we otherwise would have missed you much

wie schön, dass wir beisammen sind
> how wonderful that we are together 

wir gratulieren dir, Geburtstagskind
> congratulations to you, birthday child

Origin: written by singer-songwriter Rolf Zuckowski (early 2000s?)



If you have an interesting popular folk birthday song that’s missing from this list or have a correction for this page, please let me know! Always curious to learn about different languages and cultures comparatively: