Norwegian Language Blog

Birthdays in Norway Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Traditions


Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Gratulerer med fødselsdagen! (Happy birthday!) Since July is crowded with birthdays in my family, I thought it would be nice ending the month with some facts about fødselsdagsfeiring (birthday celebration) in Norway.

Mange norske barn har barneselskap. (Many Norwegian children have children’s birthday parties.) The barneselskap is hosted by the child’s parents. Children from the skoleklasse (school class) or barnehage (kindergarten) of the fødselsdagsbarn (”birthday child”) are invited to the consumption of kaker (cakes), brus (lemonade), gelé [shellEH] (jelly), snop (candy)… Gjestene [YESTeneh] (the guests) are expected to bring gaver (gifts) or penger (money).

• Adult nordmenn (Norwegians) continue celebrating their birthdays, but it’s often more low-key later in life. The exceptions are the runde fødselsdager (round birthdays) like 25, 30, 40, 50, 75… These are often pretexts for huge parties.

• Norwegian actually has two words for ’birthday’. The second one is bursdag (or gebursdag), which comes from the German word Geburtstag. In some parts of the country the right thing to say is: Gratulerer med bursdagen! Ask the locals to hear which word they use.

• It quite normal for the guests at a birthday party to sing a fødselsdagssang/bursdagssang for the celebrant. When people are in a hurry, they sometimes go for the English ”Happy Birthday To You”. Otherwise, there is a nice Norwegian song, ”Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år”. The song has special moves that follow the text. The first verse runs like this:


Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år!
Ja, deg vil vi gratulere!
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står,
og se, nå vil vi marsjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu oss omkring,
danse for deg med hopp og sprett og spring,
ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting!
Og si meg så, hva vil du mere?


Hooray for you who’re completing your year,

yes, you we will congratulate.

Everybody is standing around you in a ring,

and see, now we’ll march,

bow, nod, curtsy, turn around,

dance for you with jumps and bounces,

wish form the heart all good things!

And say me then, what more do you want?



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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.