Have a birthday coming up? If the birthday boy or girl is German, you are probably not only searching for a gift but for the right words to wish them a happy birthday in German. As you should because Germans take their birthdays seriously. But beware! Don’t wish them a happy birthday before the actual day or you will be to blame for any bad luck they will have in the coming year. So learn with us how to correctly congratulate the Geburtstagskind.
- Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
- Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!
- Viel Glück zum Geburtstag!
- Alles Liebe zum Geburtstag!
- Feier schön!
- Hab einen schönen Geburtstag!
- Ich wünsche Ihnen ein gesundes und erfolgreiches neues Lebensjahr!
- Von Herzen alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
- Happy Birthday!
1. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
The one fits all. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag translates to “all the best on your birthday”! This is something you can wish your partner, your mom, your best friend, your boss or even a perfect stranger. You can shout it on the phone or write it on a card. Also very common is the short form Alles Gute! (All the best!)
2. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!
Another allrounder, but a bit more heartfelt. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag means “heartfelt congratulations on your birthday”. Despite the personal connection to the heart, this German birthday wish is so common that you can use it with everyone from parents to strangers. As we have seen already with Alles Gute, Germans like it short and sweet which is why you can use a short form of most happy birthday wishes in German. In this case: Herzlichen Glückwunsch! (Heartfelt congratulations!)
3. Viel Glück zum Geburtstag!
With Viel Glück zum Geburtstag you wish all and everyone best of luck on their birthday! You wouldn’t use Viel Glück alone, at least not for a birthday. The short form would be good to use when wishing someone luck before an exam: Viel Glück! You could also say Alles Gute in that case, and Herzlichen Glückwunsch to congratulate them for passing the exam, but other than Viel Glück, Alles Gute and Herzlichen Glückwunsch can be used as birthday wishes, too.
4. Alles Liebe zum Geburtstag!
Much love on your birthday. If you wonder how to say happy birthday in German to someone special, this is for you. You wouldn’t want to say this to your boss unless they happen to be your spouse, too. Other than that, mom, dad, children and best friends deserve all your love on their special day.
5. Feier schön!
Did you know that the Germans practically invented birthday celebrations? It all started when medieval bakers found birthday cakes for children to be a good source of extra income. Fast forward a few hundred years and we are still eating cake, blowing candles and making wishes on our birthdays. This is about all the celebrations you will get at work or school. You will need to bring the cake yourself, though (mind the culture trap!). With friends and family, things are different. People close to you will expect a party. And while you cannot wish someone a happy birthday before the actual day, you can start the celebrations on the evening before and count the seconds until midnight for everyone to shout “Happy Birthday!”. This is called reinfeiern – to celebrate into the birthday. Games for your children’s birthday and most likely alcohol for grown-up events are a must. This is what they mean when they wish Feier schön! (Celebrate nicely!). By the way, just like the cake, the bill is on you!
6. Hab einen schönen Geburtstag!
There’s not much to say about this one. “Have a nice birthday” is a sensible thing to wish everyone you know and part of German etiquette. The personal “you” constricts its use to friends and acquaintances, the formal “you” (Sie) is not used in this special wish. There are other happy birthday wishes in German for formal occasions.
7. Ich wünsche Ihnen ein gesundes und erfolgreiches neues Lebensjahr!
. “I wish you (formal) a healthy and prosperous new year of life!” Now, this is a bit much even for your boss unless your boss is Jeff Bezos or someone else really high up. Wishing your employer a happy birthday face to face, you would rather say Alles Gute or Herzlichen Glückwunsch. But in a birthday speech at work or a birthday card the somewhat pompous sentence makes sense.
8. Von Herzen alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
“From the heart, all the best on your birthday” is another way to make a speech or card sound more festive. As the heart is involved, you would direct this wish to family and friends. Of course, you will most likely celebrate the day with them anyway, but most Germans expect a personal card with their present. Use this to start or end your written birthday wishes.
9. Happy Birthday!
If you are lost for words, stick to a simple “happy birthday!” Germans use the English version quite a lot and it is pretty common to sing the famous song in English, too. Why not surprise your friends with the classic happy birthday song in German? For Kindergarten or school you might also want to memorize Viel Glück und viel Segen.
How to say happy birthday in German
Happy birthday wishes in German are mostly short and sweet and can be made even shorter. Not surprisingly, they all center around topics such as luck, love and happiness as in Alles Gute, Alles Liebe or Viel Glück zum Geburtstag. Feier schön reflects the German affinity for partying. After all, they invented birthday parties. So party along and if you can, sing the happy birthday song in German.
Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website contentrundumstier.de.