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Happy Birthday in Spanish

Saying "happy birthday" in Spanish is easy. You say:

happy birthday in Spanish

¡Felíz Cumpleaños!'s birthday is in April, and I thought it would be quite timely to write about the notion of birthdays in Spanish as we approach April.

By the way, so that you can date this page, I'm writing this as of the end of March 2010.

Tu Santo Vs Tu Cumpleaños: What's the Difference?

I remember one evening, a few weeks after I arrived in Australia I went to a birthday party of a newly acquainted friend. She introduced me to her guests, and explained that I was a new arrival from El Salvador.

One of her guests then approached me and asked "how do you say happy birthday in Spanish?".

The question was easy, and I told him. You say ¡Felíz Cumpleaños!

But, in hindsight, that was only half the correct answer.

And the thing is that, even though Spanish speaking countries do celebrate birthdays, there are variations from country to country, and even within a given country.

People with a strong catholic background tend to refer to a birthday as "el día de tu santo:" (your saint's day), rather than a "tu cumpleaños." (i.e. your birthday).

This is because people used to be baptised with the name of the saint of the day. (Catholics do have lots of saints, don't they?).

My grandmother, definetely a catholic, used to refer to my birthday as "tu santo"

This was confusing for me, because there is no such a thing (as far as I'm aware) as a "Saint Jeff", and certainly not on my birthday.

And, to complicate things even further, sometimes your birth date (and birthday) is different from the day you've were baptised!. So, you can have a cumpleaños and a santo!!

Check out the following video. That's a video for kids with a character by the name Topo Gigio singing a happy birthday in Spanish, using tu santo instead of cumpleaños:

This song (called "las mañanitas" by Alejandro Fernandez) is sang in Mexico when celebrating a birthday, especially with mariachis. These are the lyrics (short version):

Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David
Hoy por ser día de tu santo te las cantamos aquí.
Despierta mi bien despierta
Mira que ya amaneció
Ya los pajaritos cantan
La luna ya se metió.

¡Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte!
El día en que tú naciste, nacieron todas las flores
Y En la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

Ya viene amaneciendo ya la luz del dia nos vió.
Levantarte de la mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

Volaron cuatro palomas por toditas las ciudades
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te deseamos felicidades.
De las estrellas del cielo, tengo que bajarte dos...
Una es para saludarte, la otra es para decirte adios.

Con racimos de flores, hoy te vengo a saludar...
Hoy por ser día de tu santo te venimos a cantar.

Of course, we also have the equivalent of the famous English song Happy Birthday in Spanish.

That Happy Birthday song is subject to copyright (even in Spanish), and I include the video and lyrics below as "fair use" within the meaning of the Copyright Act in Australia.

Should the copyright owner object to this inclusion, please note that I do not store either the audio file nor the video presentation.

In fact, is the host of that file. I've only embedded the code in this page.

Cumpleaños felíz,
te deseamos a ti.
Que los cumplas en tu día.
Que los cumplas felíz.

Note that in practical conversations, to say happy birthday in Spanish, you say Felíz cumpleaños, but in the song you say Cumpleaños felíz. The order of the words is inverted to make it "fit" in the song nicely.

The other way some people sing is is by saying Felíz cumpleaños a ti, but that adds an extra syllable to the line, and kinda throws the song out of tempo, as people try to rush all the syllables into line to make it fit in the tune!

So, there you go. If you're going to a Spanish speaking birthday party, you'll know how to say (and sing) happy birthday in Spanish!

Links to Other Spanish Phrases


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