Happy Birthday Song
Every American child learns and loves the happy birthday song at a very young age. They grin with delight and anticipation as each anniversary of their lives approaches, even when it may be only one day less than one year away. The song marks candles, cake and happy company. Most importantly of all to a child though, is that it means presents. The happy birthday song sung in the United States is simple and easy to remember. In just six brief musical notes, a happy child will clap their hands and laugh. It grabs attention and lifts spirits. But what would a happy birthday song be without the words 'happy birthday?'
It can still mean quite a lot. In several Hispanic countries and communities, the happy birthday song sung to children is not as simple as the one sung here. It has two verses and a chorus and tells a story. Most surprising is the complete absence of the word birthday. Although it is probably a little more difficult to learn, the happy birthday song is probably just as loved and appreciated by the children who hear and sing it. Instead of multiple repetitions of the warm wish of the familiar happy birthday song, the tune that rings out carries more complicated sentiments of love for people and life.
It should be no surprise that different cultures would mark the passing of years in different ways. After all, a birthday cake and even the dinner before the cake are different even from city to city. The happy birthday song is one aspect of culture that seems so basic that it should be at least similar from one country to the next. But in reality, a happy birthday song, along with all of its many variations, is just one more difference to recognize and celebrate.