Wishing a German a happy birthday before their birthday is considered bad luck, so don’t do it. And as for gifts and cards you may want to send, just make sure to state to them that they should open the package on their birthday.
German birthday parties are both the same and different than American parties. I have yet to see a Chuck-E-Cheese in Germany, for instance, and (usually) the goal in Germany is not to see if you can outspend the other families in your circle, but how creative you can be in developing the party theme. People put a lot of emphasis on “Häuslichkeit” and “Gemütlichkeit” (domesticity and being comfortable – like nesting), something that the US is coming back to, now that we have the decade of excess behind us.
Birthday Celebrations from Germany
In Germany the children are never given homework or chores on their birthday. This celebration of a birthday started hundreds of years ago in Germany and has spread throughout the world.
On a child’s birthday the house is decorated, the dining table or kitchen has a special wooden birthday wreath placed in it. The wreath contains small holes for candles and a holder in the denter for the lifecandle. This a taller candle and is beautifully decorated. This candle is lit each year of a child’s birthday until they reach the age of twelve. (we have all the original German items at my house and use them for all of our birthdays)
The tradition of children’s birthday parties first started in Germany, Kinderfeste. Kinder means child and feste means festival, or party. Historians attribute Germans with the first birthday parties for kids.
For all birthdays, adult or children, a member of the birthday person’s family wakes up at sunrise and lights the candles on the birthday cake. There are as many candles as the years of age of the birthday person plus one for good luck. The candles are left burning all day long (my comment: they are lit again several times but they do not stay lit). The table setting of the birthday person is decorated with fresh greenery and flowers around the table setting, on the actual table. Fresh flowers are also present but in a vase, always an odd number since even numbers bring bad luck.
German birthday cakes would by Americans considered “bread” and are round. They actually look somewhat like angle food cake but are very solid and hearty.
Giving handmade gifts and crafts are much appreciated and loved.
At work, the birthday person buys cake or dessert for all colleagues. At night, the birthday person invites friends and family to a party or dinner. Everything is paid for by the birthday person. So, some people do not tell colleagues when their birthday is because it can be pretty costly.
Now for some birthday expressions:Happy Birthday From All Over Germany:
If you’re travelling in different parts of Germany, this is how you may hear happy birthday expressed in different German dialects:
Bayern (Bavaria): Ois Guade zu Deim Geburdstog!
Berlin : Alles Jute ooch zum Jeburtstach!
Friesland: Lokkiche jierdei!
Hessen (Hesse): Isch gratelier Dir aach zum Geburtstach!
Köln (Cologne): Alles Juute zum Jeburtstaach!
Norddeutschland (Plattdeutsch -> Low German): Ick wünsch Di alls Gode ton Geburtsdach!
Wien (Vienna): Ois Guade zum Geburdsdog!
Bern : Es Muentschi zum Geburri!
Which is to say, they are a lot like American birthday parties.
Written Birthday Expressions:
You can write all of the above mentioned expressions in a card, but if you want something a little more ausführlicher (detailed), you may want to try some of these:
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag und viel Glück/Erfolg im neuen Lebensjahr!
(Happy birthday and much happiness/success in the new year.)
Ich wünsche dir zu deinem Geburtstag alles Liebe und Gute – verbringe einen wunderschönen Tag im Kreise deiner Lieben.
(I wish you all the best on your birthday. May you spend a wonderful day surrounded by those you love.)
Ich wünsche dir einen herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag und alles Liebe und Gute und ganz viel Gesundheit und Spaß. Lass dich schön feiern.
(I wish you a happy birthday and all the best and much health and fun. Have a good time celebrating.
Herzlichen Glückwunsch und alles Gute zum Geburtstag wünscht dir (your name).
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum (birthday number)sten und alles Gute.
(Happpy Xth birthday and all the best.)