Photo by AndrewEick


In honor of my daughter, Vanessa, who turns 4 years today, I’m re-posting this article from July 16, 2009, so I can spend the day having fun with my bilingual child. ¡Feliz Cumpleaños, hija linda!

I absolutely love summer…for a lot of reasons, but mainly because my daughter is a summer baby which means we get to celebrate her cumpleaños outdoors in the melting heat (as opposed to indoors hiding from the snow.) In fact, both Vanessa and Camila (and now even my son, Santiago) were born pretty much in the middle of the summer, so both Ana and I will be celebrating their birthdays pretty soon.

This got me thinking about a little tradition we have at our house regarding the songs we sing when it’s someone’s birthday. It all started even way before Vanessa was born almost three years ago. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my husband is from Puerto Rico and I’m from Perú, which means we sing completely different songs when celebrating birthdays.

My version goes something like this (to the beat of Happy Birthday):

Cumpleaños feliz,

te deseamos a ti,

cumpleaños (fulanito),

qué los cumplas feliz!

My husband’s version has nothing to do with the original Happy Birthday song. It goes something like this:

Feliz, feliz en tu día

amiguito, que Dios te bendiga

que reine la paz en tu vida

y que cumplas muchos más

We always sing the traditional Happy Birthday and then since our friends are pretty much from all over South America, we kind of go around the table asking each one to sing their version. It takes a while, but it’s fun to hear everyone else’s interpretation.

And, even if there are no Mexicans in the house, we ALWAYS sing “Las Mañanitas“. One, because I like it and two because I spent part of my childhood in México and I just got used to it. In case you don’t know the lyrics to that one, here goes the first part:

Photo by JAG Photography

Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.

Despierta mi bien despierta

Mira que ya ameneció

Ya los pajaritos cantan

La luna ya se metió.

If you want to know what other countries – not limited to South America – sing around the birthday cake, check this out. I thought it was pretty cool.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to cumpleaños…there’s the whole other topic of  the different names we have for the birthday “cake” in Spanish (pastel, torta, bizcocho, queque – for starters), as well as the different ways we actually celebrate one. So why don’t you please share your traditions with us so we can all learn something new ;) .

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