Happy Birzday to You

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A picture perfect birthday, balloons, kids running around, pop corn, cakes, mummies and nannies, music, and last but not least the birthday cake. As we gather around to sing happy birthday to the birthday boy/girl, we gather all our strength and take a deep breath, as we know there will be a four-minute medley of happy birthday in all languages. Well, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but it is true. If we knew more then 3 languages in Lebanon we would probably be singing in as many as we could.

A birthday party in Lebanon is never complete without singing happy birthday in all 3 languages, French, English, and Arabic. We never start with the Arabic version “sana hilwa ya gamil”, which is actually an Egyptian version of happy birthday, where we repeat the same verse “sana hilwa ya gamil”, meaning have a nice year oh handsome one. Depending on the background education of the person we either start in French or in English, followed by the second language and we do the finale in Arabic.

I find it to be so insightful of our culture. We never like a party to end early, as one song will never do. It’s as if saying: “hey, but wait, this can’t be it. We have to celebrate some more. This is too short of a party. Wait. I am just about to sing you in all the languages that I know.” because as Freddy Mercury’s song goes: the show must go on!

Walid Toufic, a Lebanese singer, has managed single handedly to animate every birthday party with his happy birthday song, which is a mix of the traditional English one with some Egyptian Arabic lyrics added to it making it an epic 5 minutes long song. As we dance and sing and even pretend to put the microphone under our arm pit, imitating him his performance on stage, we open our fingers wide and clap to the most quintessentially Lebanese birthday song of all times “happy birzday to you… ta la la, la la…”

Here are the lyrics translated in English: (mind you we only sing the verse happy birzday to you, but for good old times’ sake here is the entire translation of the song)

Happy birzday to you

Come down to the party oh handsome one

And feel free to stride, as you like

I match your eyes

Even though you have a lethal look in your eyes

Why are you so distant?

You fill my heart every night

At your orders oh handsome one

Happy birzday to you

Oh, those days

They pass quickly without our feeling it.

They take more than what they give us

And I’m against those days alone.

Oh moon of the night!

Oh moon of the beautiful night

If you point at the stars, they will slow down

At your orders, oh handsome one.

Happy birzday to you…

Oh spring, the green dream

If it’s only about patience I’ll be patient.

It will come to you and open your heart

Then the world will get smaller next to you.

Oh sea without an end

My heart is like a sailor

At your orders, oh handsome one.

Happy birzday to you…

I was once at a Lebanese friend’s wedding party, Pierre, in England who was getting married to an English lady, Eleanor. As they arrived and all the Lebanese friends went into a frenzy of dancing, singing and carrying them, an English friend of the bride looked at me and said in her very British accent “we can’t compete with you… You Lebanese know how to party!” and I looked at her and said “no one does it better!”

To us, the people that know that life is one big party worth enjoying every minute of it… Happy Birzday to us!

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