How to Say "Happy Birthday" in Dutch

Birthday Greetings, Customs, and the Traditional Song

Courtyard with strings of lights and lit up restaurants in Amsterdam
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If you are visiting Amsterdam or the Netherlands and you plan to celebrate a birthday there, you may want to read up on Dutch birthday customs ahead of time. The Dutch have a couple of phrases that are functionally equivalent to our "happy birthday." 

Birthday Customs

Birthdays are important in Dutch culture. Whether you like it or not, if it's your birthday, your friends and family are going to try to get-together with you to celebrate it.

Cake is a necessity. The twist, however, is that you must provide your own cake for your own party—no one will bring you cake for your birthday. Presents are not guaranteed, but if you do get a gift, you must open the gift in front of everyone as a sign of respect to the gift-giver. 

Birthdays in the Netherlands are almost always celebrated at the workplace and at school (if you have a school-age child) as well—and you need to take your own cake in this case, too. If you have a large office or your child has a large class, then plan ahead. You might need to bring a lot of cake—for everyone.

Birthday Greetings

The most common birthday greeting, Gefeliciteerd!, is actually the word for "congratulations." This phrase is directed not only to the person whose birthday it is, but you should also wish this to the guest of honor and his or her family and close friends. It is not unusual for a Dutch birthday party to start off with an elaborate round of felicitations.

The greeting is usually accompanied by three alternating kisses on each cheek.

Some variations on the phrase include Van harte gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag! which means, "(Heartfelt) congratulations on your birthday!"

A less common phrase that can be used is "Gelukkige verjaardag!, which literally means, "Happy birthday."

Common Birthday Phrases and Words

Another phrase that you say in English, "Many happy returns in good health," is also said in Dutch, Nog vele jaren in goede gezondheid.

English Phrase/WordDutch Translation
Wishing you an enjoyable dayEen prettige dag gewenst
Many thanks for the good wishesHartelijk dank voor de goede wensen
When is your birthday?Wanneer ben je jarig?
Birthday(de) verjaardag
Children's party(hetpartijtje
Festive dinner(hetetentje
Presents(de) kadootjes
Cake(de) taart
Single serving of cake(de) gebakjes 
What's your age now? (tread carefully)Hoe oud ben je geworden?
Did you get many presents?Heb je een verlanglijstje?
Do you have a wish list?Wat wil je voor je verjaardag hebben?
What (presents) would you like to have for your birthday?Hartelijk gefeliciteerd met Uw vijfentachtigste
verjaardag en een prettige dag gewenst?

Birthday Song

Last but not least, there's also a Dutch birthday song, used in much the same circumstances as the American "Happy Birthday to You." Its lyrics are fairly simple. There are only seven words in total. And, the words are not too difficult to pronounce—which is ideal for elementary-level Dutch learners:

Lang zal hij/ze leven,
Lang zal hij/ze leven,
Lang zal hij/ze leven,
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!

(English Translation)

May s/he live long
May s/he live long
May s/he live long
In glory
In glory
In glory
Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!