Like the rest of the world, birthdays are an important occasion in Italy. It is the celebration of the day you were born and the fact that a new year of your life is about to begin.
If you have an Italian friend who is celebrating a birthday, you get bonus points for wishing them a “happy birthday” in Italian!
In this article, I’ll be teaching you the many ways to say “happy birthday” in Italian, how to sing the birthday song in Italian, as well as how to celebrate a birthday, Italian style. Ready?
How to say “Happy Birthday” in Italian
There are many expressions you can use to say “happy birthday” in Italian. Now let’s see the most common birthday greetings to wish someone on their special day.
“Happy birthday” in Italian – Buon compleanno
The meaning of buon compleanno is literally “good birthday”. The perfect equivalent of “happy birthday”, is the most straightforward birthday greeting and the most commonly used in Italy.
“Good wishes” in Italian – (Tanti) Auguri
Auguri in Italian is another expression to wish someone a happy birthday. It literally means “good wishes”.
This is a generic phrase also used for other occasions, such as to wish someone a merry Christmas or a happy New Year. It can even be applied to life milestones, like when someone graduates, when a friend gets married, or when a baby is born.
To put greater emphasis on your words, you can also say tanti auguri, which means “many wishes”.
Many wishes for your birthday – (Tanti) auguri di buon compleanno
You can even use a combination of buon compleanno and tanti auguri.
In this case, you’ll say Tanti auguri di buon compleanno, which means “many wishes for your birthday”.
“Happy birthday my friend” in Italian – Tanti auguri amico mio
Take that birthday wish up a notch! Impress your good friends by saying Tanti auguri amico mio which means “happy birthday, my friend”.
“Happy birthday my love” in Italian – Tanti auguri amore mio/tesoro mio
Now let’s see how to say “happy birthday, my love” in Italian.
I’d say we can translate it with two expressions: Tanti auguri amore mio and Tanti auguri tesoro mio. The meaning is the same, but while the former is used more with a partner, the latter is more for a child or for people towards whom we feel deep affection.
I wish you a happy birthday – Ti auguro buon compleanno
Ti auguro buon compleanno is the equivalent of the English “I wish you a happy birthday.” It’s a lovely birthday greeting phrase you can write on a card or in a text message.
The formal version would be Le auguro buon compleanno.
My best wishes for a happy birthday – I miei migliori auguri di buon compleanno
Another interesting phrase you can write on a birthday card is I miei migliori auguri di buon compleanno, which means “My best wishes for a happy birthday.”
It’s a standard birthday greeting in Italian, and it can be used in both formal and informal settings.
Happy belated birthday – Tanti auguri in ritardo
Suppose you forgot someone’s birthday and regardless, you’d like to send your wishes a few days later. In that case, you can use the expression Tanti auguri in ritardo. It is the equivalent of “happy belated birthday” in Italian and is used the same way.
How to celebrate your birthday in Italy
A birthday in Italy is usually celebrated with a party or a lunch/dinner at a restaurant on the same day or a few days later. Italians never celebrate before the actual day of someone’s birthday, because it is believed to bring bad luck.
When a party is organized, the room is usually decorated with festoons and balloons. A buffet is set up with sandwiches, little pizzas, canapés, and sweet goodies like chocolates and pastries. Guests enjoy the buffet while mingling with each other until it’s time to bring in the cake.
Then the birthday boy or girl blows out the candles, while everyone around sings the happy birthday song. Pictures are taken, presents are unwrapped and, in the end, the cake is cut and given out to everybody in the room.
Italian birthday vocabulary
Now let’s see the main elements that characterize an Italian birthday party:
Cards: Cards are what accompanies birthday presents. In Italian, they’re called biglietti di auguri, and they can be either white with a lot of space to write inside or colorful and full of patterns. If you want to be polite, you should open the card first, thank the person for their greeting message and only then open your present.
Candles: Candles are a must at any birthday party. They can be classic, numbered, or even sparklers. They’re always blown out after guests have sung the “happy birthday” song. In Italian, they’re called candeline, or “little candles”.
Cake: The cake is another essential element of an Italian birthday party. We don’t have a particular type of cake we use only for birthdays. Still, I’d say the most common is the Torta millefoglie (mille-feuille cake), a cake made of three layers of puff pastry and stabilized pastry cream.
Sparkling wine: The cake is accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine, a Spumante. Usually, you can choose between a sweet wine or a dry one, the most famous of which is called Prosecco.
Gifts: You cannot go to a birthday party without bringing a gift to the guest of honor. As for the most common gifts in Italy, I’d say that we give toys or clothes to children, while for adults it can be anything you want. Family can also give you money as a present, attaching it to the birthday card. A gift in Italian is regalo, and if you want to say “birthday gift” specifically, then it’s regalo di compleanno.
Happy birthday songs in Italian
It’s time to learn the most popular birthday songs in Italian. I say “songs” in plural because, although we have the traditional birthday song, you can sing other festive tunes during a birthday. Now let’s learn how to sing the birthday song, in Italian!
Tanti auguri a te is the classic “Happy Birthday to you” song. Below, you can find the song’s lyrics. Memorize them, click on the track and sing along!
Tanti auguri a te Tanti auguri a te Tanti auguri (Name) Tanti auguri a te
Perché è un bravo ragazzo is like the English song “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. It is a song used to congratulate someone on a significant event, such as a wedding or a work promotion, but it’s also used for birthdays. Here are the lyrics:
Perché è un bravo ragazzo perché è un bravo ragazzo perché è un bravo ragazzo... Nessuno lo può negar
Last but not least, we have a funny and ironic version of Tanti auguri a te. Basically, you start as if you were singing the classic “Happy birthday to you” song but, after the first verse, you end up saying e la torta a me (And the cake goes to me). It’s a way to personalize the birthday song among friends.
Important birthdays in Italy and life milestones
There are several significant milestones in the life of an Italian. Some of them are associated with great celebrations, while others have more to do with the gaining of new rights. In this section, we’ll cover the most important birthdays in Italy and how they’re celebrated.
At 14 years old you can get the license to drive low-powered motorbikes. This way, you can have your own means of transportation and not depend on your parents to drive you around.
At 18 years old, you’re officially an adult according to Italian law. You can vote, sign your own documents, and get your driver’s license. It’s popular to receive a car as a gift for this birthday. At this age, you’re also allowed to drink alcoholic drinks, such as beer and cocktails.
Since turning 18 is such an important milestone in an Italian boy or girl’s life, it is usually celebrated with a big party with family and/or friends. It’s more or less like the American “sweet sixteen” birthday party.
After turning 18, the other bigger birthday celebrations will be reserved for when you reach an age number ending with 0: 30, 40, 50, 60…
Turning 90 is another significant life event. Friends and family will jump at the chance to celebrate such a major milestone in your life. Everyone will gather together for a special birthday party.
And after 90, there are people in Italy who reach 100 years old. In this case, they’re not only celebrated by the closest family members and friends, but also the whole town. This happens especially in smaller residential areas, where everybody knows each other and is involved in everybody’s business. It’s not uncommon for the mayor to take part in the birthday celebrations. There can even be a dedicated article in the local newspaper.
Italian birthday messages to write on a card
Now that you’ve learned how to say “happy birthday” in Italian and how to celebrate it Italian-style, let’s see a couple of phrases you can write on a birthday card.
Tanti auguri di Buon Compleanno…cento di questi giorni! – Many wishes of Happy Birthday…one hundred of these days!
Tanti auguri, che ogni anno sia sempre meglio! – Many wishes, may every year be better and better!
Auguri per un felice compleanno, che il prossimo anno sia pieno di soddisfazioni! – Best wishes for a happy birthday, may the next year be full of fullfilment!
Gli anni passano, ma tu resti sempre uguale…Buon compleanno! – The years go by, but you always remain the same…Happy Birthday!
Other gift-giving occasions in Italy
At this stage, you’re more or less an expert on birthdays in Italy. As a bonus, I’d like to share with you other occasions where Italians celebrate and exchange gifts.
Many of them come from the Catholic tradition that is part of our country. All over the world, people celebrate Christmas. Still, not everyone knows that there are other similar holidays in Italy, especially between December and January.
During the night between December 5 and 6, in fact, in some regions of Northern and Southern Italy, children receive sweets and gifts from St. Nicholas, a character similar to Santa Claus.
In other cities, the atmosphere is most festive during Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy). In this case, it is on December 13 that children receive their long-awaited gifts rather than on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
Another occasion when children receive gifts is the Epifania, on January 6. This event is the one that most resembles the English and American Christmas. In fact, children hang up a stocking inside their house. The Befana, an old lady riding a flying broom, will leave candy and small gifts for the well-behaved or coal for the naughty ones.
In some southern Italy regions, they still celebrate the Onomastico (Name Day), a day of the year associated with the saint that has your name. On this day, you can receive messages of good wishes from family and friends.
Are you interested in the Italian language? Read about the best apps to learn Italian, as well as the best books and most engaging podcasts. This comprehensive list of resources will also do the trick!
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