Is Your Party Today? Let’s Have a Happy Birthday in Spanish!
Is your party today and you are living in a Spanish-speaking country? Well, you are going to hear those two words many times on this day.
Maybe you have a friend from Spain or from a Latin American country, and today is her birthday. How do you wish her a happy birthday in Spanish?
But celebrating a birthday has many other particularities beyond simply wishing someone a happy birthday. What are they and why is it important for you to know them? Keep reading and find the answers to these and other questions regarding birthdays in Spanish.
Different Ways of Wishing Someone a Happy Birthday in Spanish
The literal translation of “happy birthday” is feliz cumpleaños. However, you can also simply say felicidades, felicitaciones, or sometimes even que cumplas muchos más. Let’s take a look at each of them:
The most common way to wish someone a happy birthday in Spanish is to say feliz cumpleaños. It’s one of those cases when the literal translation actually works:
feliz – happy
cumpleaños – birthday
As with the English word “birthday,” the word cumpleaños in Spanish is a compound word. However, they come from different words. Let’s see:
birth – nacimiento
day – día
If we were to translate the literal meaning of the word “birthday” in Spanish it would be:
birthday – día de nacimiento
This translation in Spanish is confusing because it seems to refer to the literal day you were born, but it’s not a word we actually use. In Spanish, we call that your fecha de nacimiento, as fecha means “date.” But if you ask someone for their día de nacimiento, they will probably reply with their fecha de nacimiento.
So, what’s the actual meaning of the word cumpleaños? The Spanish word for birthday is made up of two words:
cumple – a conjugation of the verb cumplir, for which the best translation would be “to turn,” as in:
Juan is turning 30 today – Juan cumple 30 hoy.
The second part of the word cumpleaños is:
años – years
This results in the true meaning of the word cumpleaños: “to turn years.” Now imagine that as a noun, because cumpleaños is a noun:
hoy es mi cumpleaños – today is my birthday
Noun and Verb Forms:
But it can also become an action in different forms:
Juan cumple años hoy – Juan’s birthday is today
The English translation for that phrase doesn’t show cumple as an action, simply because English has no equivalent for this. The literal translation would be “Juan turns years today,” which makes no sense in English. But when you add the number of years, it’s more clear how it works:
Juan cumple 30 años hoy – Juan turns 30 (years) today.
Some other forms:
Me gusta cumplir años. – I like when it’s my birthday. (literal: I like turning years)
Juan cumplió 30 años ayer. – Juan turned 30 yesterday.
¿Cuántos años cumples? – How old are you turning? (literal: How many years are you turning today?
Hopefully, with this in-depth explanation of how the word cumpleaños works, you now have a better grasp of the logic behind the whole “birthday” theme in Spanish.
Felicidades or Felicitaciones
These two words basically mean the same thing: “Congratulations”. They are both widely used to wish someone a happy birthday in Spanish. You could say that felicitaciones is a little bit more formal, but actually they are just two variations of the same concept of congratulating somebody.
Felicidades and felicitaciones is also used in different contexts not related to a birthday. Just as with “congratulations,” you can felicitar (congratulate) a person for getting a new job or graduating from school.
Que cumplas muchos más
To understand this phrase, imagine that you arrive at your friend’s birthday party and when you see him, the first thing you say (instead of happy birthday) is, “May you live many more years” while giving him a big hug (as Latin people love hugs).
Well, that’s the actual meaning of this phrase:
que cumplas muchos más – I wish you to turn many more (years)
That’s the literal translation, but in English you would simply say “happy birthday.”
Questions & Answers Related to Birthdays in Spanish
Now, let’s explore some important questions and answers that you need to know in order to properly celebrate a happy birthday in Spanish.
¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – When is your birthday?
Mi cumpleaños es el domingo – My birthday is on Sunday
¿Cuántos años cumples mañana? – How old are you turning tomorrow?
Mañana cumplo 30 – I’m turning 30 tomorrow.
¿Qué vas a hacer por/para tu cumpleaños? – What are you going to do for your birthday?
Notice how the meaning of the question doesn’t change if you use por or para. Both words translate as “for.” Depending on the Spanish-speaking country you’re in, people may use one or the other. However, both are correct.
Voy a hacer una fiesta. – I’m having a party.
¿Dónde es la fiesta? – Where is the party?
La fiesta es en mi casa. – The party is at my house.
¿Qué quieres de regalo? – What do you want as a gift?
¿Qué quieres para tu cumpleaños? – What do you want for your birthday?
¿Qué quieres que te regale? – What do you want me to give you?
No quiero nada, gracias. – I don’t want anything, thanks.
Me gustaría recibir un libro. – I’d like to get a book.
Customs & Traditions
This is weird, but in Spain, if it’s your birthday party you are expected to pay for your guests’ drinks!
No birthday party is more important in the life of a Mexican woman than her Quince Años (Fifteen Years). This tradition, which was recently in international headlines due to the infamous Quince Años party of Rubí, was supposed to introduce señoritas (young ladies) in society. The whole party was designed to show that the girl was a woman and ready to marry and have children. The girl in this scenario is called the quinceañera and she is like a princess, at least for that one night.
Another famous Mexican birthday tradition is the piñata. A cardboard figurine of your kid’s favorite cartoon character is filled with candy and then beaten with a stick by the group of children until it breaks open and candy spills out. When the piñata finally breaks, chaos ensues as kids throw themselves to the floor to pick up the candies. I’ve been to parties for adults, where instead of candy they filled the piñata with Centenarios (Mexican commemorative gold coins).No need to tell you how crazy that got!
Finally, in Chile and Venezuela your own guests will try their best to get your face into the cake once the birthday song is over and you have made your wishes.
A birthday is not a birthday without a happy birthday song and there are many of them in Spanish.
Let’s first look at a few that follow the same tune of the “happy birthday” song in English:
Que los cumplas feliz – That you turn them happily (the years)
Que los cumplas feliz
Que los cumplas (name)
Que los cumplas feliz.
Cumpleaños feliz – Happy birthday
Te deseamos a ti – We wish to you
Cumpleaños (name) – Birthday (name)
Que los cumplas feliz. – That you turn them happily.
Feliz cumpleaños a ti – Happy birthday to you
Feliz cumpleaños a ti
Feliz cumpleaños (name)
Feliz cumpleaños a ti.
Ya queremos pastel – Now we want cake
Ya queremos pastel
Aunque sea un pedacito – Even just a little piece
Pero queremos pastel. – But we want cake.
Now, a country where the birthday song doesn’t use the popular “happy birthday” tune:
In México, people get up really early to sing Las Mañanitas to wake up their loved ones on their birthdays. But the true Mexican spirit gets going when a group of friends, or maybe a romantic partner, stays awake until after midnight to hire a mariachi band to sing Las Mañanitas outside the house of the birthday boy or girl.
Actually, Las Mañanitas is one of the top five mariachi songs of all time.
Estas son las mañanitas – These are the early mornings
Que cantaba el rey David – That King David used to sing
Hoy por ser día de tu santo – Today being the day of your saint
Te las cantamos a ti. – We sing them to you.
Despierta, (nombre), despierta – Wake up, (name), wake up
Mira que ya amaneció – Look it’s sunrise already
Ya los pajaritos cantan – The little birds are singing
La luna ya se metió. – The moon hid itself.
Las Mañanitas continue for a couple more stanzas, but most people only sing these first two.
Sing with us!
Are you curious about the rest of Las Mañanitas lyrics? Or maybe you just like the idea of singing a happy birthday song in Spanish accompanied by a mariachi band? Either way, Homeschool Spanish Academy is here for you. Sign up for a free class with a native Spanish-speaker teacher, and learn how to sing and say happy birthday in Spanish!
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