How Are Birthdays Celebrated in Germany? A Complete Guide.

Is there a day that anyone gets to feel as special as they will on their birthday? Adults rarely get fussed over, yet even adults can get away with people fussing over them on their birthday. That’s why many people love their birthdays. To mark their day, they do different things which might vary from country to country. However, have you ever asked yourself how people celebrate birthdays in Germany? While there are noticeable similarities, logic dictates we expect them to do it a little differently.

Germans celebrate their birthdays with parties brimming with food and drinks, paid for by the birthday person. The birthdays are often celebrated with family and close friends and might be at home or a restaurant. Children get the best of this day since they get special treatment to the extent that they aren’t given any homework. The birthday person, besides footing all the party bills, is also responsible for buying the cake.

Noticed anything interesting about the way Germans celebrate their birthdays? There’s more. Continue reading to find out more interesting facts about the way people celebrate their birthdays in Germany.

Differences and Similarities Between German and Other Western Birthdays

There are various ways in which German birthdays differ from those in the west. Also, there are many ways they are similar. For further explanations of all the points in the table, read on after this section!

German BirthdaysWestern Birthday
How to say Happy Birthday? Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Happy Birthday!
ImportanceGermans, like many other people, love celebrating their birthdays. Each of them can be special, but some will be bigger occasions than others.In the west, any birthday can pretty much be special if you want it to be, and you can have celebrations at any age, although there are some that most people defer to for big occasions.
Significant BirthdaysIn Germany, there are several birthdays more significant than others. The 16th, 18th, 25th, and 30th birthdays are pretty special and even have certain traditions.Most Western people place significance on certain birthdays, such as 1st, 13th, 16th, and 21st, and then each decade’s birthday like a 30th or 40th thereafter. But any and every birthday can be celebrated. Some people even celebrate half birthdays!
CakeWhat’s a birthday without a cake? A cake is a must-have at a German birthday party. The birthday person always provides the cake with candle decorations.In the west, you can’t call it a birthday party without a cake and candles. People go out of their way to ensure there is a cake to cut and for candles to be blown out.
FoodSweet sugary foods such as candy, ice cream, and cakes are staples at children’s birthdays. Adult birthday parties will often have the meal the birthday person loves or decides to prepare for their guests.Party food, usually processed and full of sugar, is generally eaten at children’s birthday parties. Sometimes food is designed and created around a birthday party theme. Adult birthday parties can follow a similar cuisine, but many will offer a meal that includes the birthday person’s favorite food, followed by dessert.
Age on BirthdayBabies are age zero at birth and add another year to their current age on the anniversary of their birth.In the west, a baby is zero when they are born, and each year on the anniversary of their birth, they turn a year older.
Date of BirthdayThe birthday is the day a German person was born. There might be differences because of registration papers having different dates to the actual dates. Either way, people usually decide to go with the date on the papers.Most westerner’s birthdays are the day they were born. For some older people, the date might differ because the registration of births differed considerably from the past to today, and to save themselves from the hassle, they go with what the paperwork states.
When to celebrateWhile you might defer the celebrations to a later date, you shouldn’t celebrate your birthday early in Germany. A German person might have to throw a small party for their birthday on a weekday as they wait to have a bigger one over the weekend – after their birthday.If your birthday falls on a weekday in the west, you might have a small family celebration that night, but your party might occur on the weekend or the best date around your birthday when you can get a venue or do an activity you were looking forward to. It is the birthday person’s choice, but generally, the day would be within a week or two of the actual birth dates.
How old are you?If you are similar in age to another person, it is generally okay to ask them their age. However, you wouldn’t ask someone you know is older than you to tell you their age since that is rude. It is okay to discuss children’s age, and parents might even offer this information to anyone who cares to listen.Many Adult westerners find it impolite to be asked how old they are, especially by strangers. It is generally okay to ask them around their birthday time, especially if they have a party and are invited to celebrate with them. On the other hand, parents are always telling everyone all about their children and their ages – it is okay to discuss the ages of children.
GiftsIt is obligatory to bring a gift to a German birthday party. Germans love sentimental gifts, so you should take your time and get one the birthday person would love.If you are invited to a party, it is obligatory to bring a card and a gift for the birthday person. The gift should be something you think the birthday person would like and if you are unsure – money or a gift card is also okay to give.
SongThe happy birthday song is sung to the birthday person when they are cutting the cake. It is often sung in English, although sometimes it can be in German.The ‘Happy Birthday Song’ is traditionally sung after lighting candles on the birthday cake. The candles are then blown out after the song has finished by the birthday person who makes a personal secret wish when blowing them out.

Do people in Germany Celebrate their Birthdays?

card that says Glock Wun Geburtstag! with candles and bunting on a red background

Yes, people in Germany celebrate their birthdays. The birthdays, however, have to happen on the actual date or later and not a minute earlier. Germans consider celebrating your birthday early to bring bad luck.

In the same spirit, Germans won’t give any greetings for your birthday until the actual date has arrived. Even if you invite them for an early birthday celebration, they will wait till it is your birthday before they can wish you a happy birthday.

In Germany, while they might fuss over the birthday person and wish them a happy birthday, it is the birthday person’s job to treat their guests to a meal or party.

They have to pay for everything from the food to the drinks and the events venue if possible. Sometimes the birthday person’s family might help foot the birthday party’s bills, but no other person is obliged to help out with this. “It is your day, after all, spoil us,” they’ll say.

When it is a child’s birthday their parents take on the role of organizing and paying for the party. If it is your child’s birthday, you as the German parent will organize several treats to be taken to school for your child to share with their classmates. The kid’s birthday celebration might even be an all-day affair.

Did you know Germans are thought to be the first people to celebrate their children’s birthdays? Perhaps is why Children’s birthdays are pretty special in Germany even without considering the gifts their children will get.

On a child’s birthday, they get away with not doing any house chores.

A German child will also wake up to candles and a cake by their bedside on this day. Usually, one large candle is called the number candle that burns bright for as long as it is the child’s birthday. Sometimes the number candle is placed at the center of a wreath on the dinner table. 

The house and the home are decorated to honor the child on their big day. Also, the child gets to decide what they want to eat for dinner. And oh, on their day, they don’t get any homework. Who knew Germans could go this easy on their kids! 

Most times birthday celebrations are often only for the birthday person’s family. There might be a few friends, but they have to be very close friends to get an invitation to a family event like a birthday. Many family members, even the old ones, will come to the party even if they live far away.

Do German people celebrate any special or specific Birthdays?

Yes, Germans have several special birthdays for which they mark several activities. 

The German 16th Birthday

Most of the special birthdays in Germany are famous for their traditions. On a teen’s 16th birthday, their friends will “decorate” their head with flour. This tradition is more common in Northern Germany, though. Better run for cover if you are turning 16 in Germany!

The German 18th Birthday

The 18th birthday has the same significance as most other places in the world. It is the age everyone expects the birthday person to begin entering adulthood. The same applies in Germany. After hitting this age, a German teen can drive, vote, and drink a beer. That’s why it’s special. On this birthday, the birthday person needs to run for cover once again since they might have eggs cracked on their head!

The 25th and 30th Birthday

It is worth mentioning that these birthdays would go by entirely unnoticed if you are dating or married. That’s because only single people bear the brunt of pranks on 25th and 30th birthdays. If you are single on these birthdays, your friends will say you are a confirmed bachelor/spinster.

They will try everything to make the world know that you’re single. For the men, the entry to their door will be covered with socks which for Germans is a sign that you’re an unmarried man.

Women, on the other hand, will have cartons of cigarettes outside their door. The cartons are symbolic of the women being called old maids, or old boxes.

Your friends could have you show your housekeeping skills to all and sundry by making you sweep the town hall corridors if you’re an unmarried man. Unmarried women are told to clean doorknobs in a public display of tier housekeeping skills to enable them to get hitched.

What Food is Eaten at a typical German Birthday Party?

If you have been invited to a German birthday party, you can expect there to be plenty of food. The Germans don’t have a specific food popularly eaten at birthdays, but they have certain foods that are ever-present at all parties- including birthday parties.

You will find popular German foods like chicken schnitzel, a famous dish in Oktoberfest festivals when you roast it, flammkuchen (German pizza), golden pork belly, or roasted pork. For the appetizers, German beer spread is one of the most popular options to get the guests in the mood for some food. The Bavarian cheese board is also an excellent option when looking for cheese as an appetizer.

Sausages often downed with a beer or two are also popular birthday party foods. Another one is Sauerbraten (roasted beef). The tenderness of the roasted beef is also a popular option for many guests. There are a variety of dishes available at a birthday party, but the above are some of the most popular.

Wine is also generally a must-have to help drown the food. Beer is also an excellent choice, especially if there are no children at the party. Germans love their beer and there aren’t many German celebrations that lack beer!

Do people have birthday cakes at their parties in Germany?

Yes, Germans have cakes on their birthdays. The cakes might have different decorations, but the most popular are candles that the birthday person will blow out as they make a wish. In keeping with the German tradition of the birthday person always treating people, the birthday person will buy or make the cake for his guests or friends.

If your birthday is on a working day, you will need to carry a cake to work for your workmates. Fortunately, the cake doesn’t have to be all cake. You can also take pastries or cookies, which are proper accompaniments to a birthday cake.

While birthday cakes are ever-present at most German birthday parties, they do not necessarily have to be a flour and sugar icing frosted cake. Some of the most popular alternatives on a children’s birthday for example might be a unique tort, fruit cake, or jam cake with several layers.

No matter the type of cake, it will always be decorated with candles. It might surprise you to know that Germans were among the first people to decorate their birthday cakes with candles. That was as early as the 18th century. 

So, what’s the most popular birthday cake type in Germany?


Germany is famous for the Black Forest cake, which is a traditional chocolate, cream and jam German cake. However, that doesn’t mean it is the only cake that people eat on birthdays. There are other types of cakes that Germans love as well. Famous among these is the Marmorkuchen made with almond extract, eggs, cocoa, milk, and baking powder.

Chocolate cakes are also famous options for most Germans on their birthdays. A common one is made with unsweetened cocoa, brown sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, among other ingredients. It is a delicious cake when you add the frosting and other sweeteners.

Do People in Germany Give Gifts at Birthday Parties?

Like in most other countries, it is obligatory to come with a gift for the birthday person in Germany. Since the birthday person or their family will be paying for everything, it only makes sense that a guest comes with a gift to appreciate the host for their hospitality.

You, however, need to know that the gifts have to come on the actual date of the birthday. They can’t be given a day sooner because it is bad luck to think of someone’s birthday is before the exact date. And even if you proceed and give them the gift before their birthday, they won’t open it until the birthday comes. That means that if you are sending a surprise birthday parcel well in advance of the birthday, you should include a message directing the birthday person that the parcel contains their Birthday gift and to not open it!

The types of gifts will vary depending on the person you are presenting them to. While children will revel in gifts such as toys, new clothes, or snacks, adults need a more personalized gift.

Germans are quite sentimental. That means you will need to take your time to pick out the most appropriate gift. The price of the gift doesn’t matter. All you need to do is get a gift the birthday person will love.

Common gifts for adults include jewelry for ladies, birthday cards, gift baskets, or money as well. You could even buy the birthday person a book if they love reading or decide to pay for something they like doing.

If you’re going to an 18th birthday party, you could buy the person an alcoholic beverage since that’s the time they are expected to be allowed to taste it.

One gift German people will surely cherish for its sentimental importance is a photo album of their childhood memories or when they were younger. Such a gift goes a long way in telling the person that they are important and mean so much to you.

Is the Birthday Song or ‘Happy Birthday to You’ sung in Germany?

People in Germany sing the Happy Birthday song too! Although there is a German version, the most common is the English version that often follows the same melody as the world-famous song. It is sung when the birthday person is cutting the cake and blowing the candles to make a wish.

On occasion, you will hear some other songs besides the English happy birthday song. These songs are sung in German, and some follow the same tune as the Happy birthday song in English. Here is the German rendition of the Happy birthday song.

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück,

Happy birthday to you!

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück,

Happy birthday to you!

Zum Geburtstag alles Gute,

Happy birthday to you!

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück.

Happy birthday to you!

The song above isn’t that popular since most people sing the English version of the happy birthday song. If you’re attending a child’s birthday party, there is another song you might hear being sung.

The song is known as Wie schön, dass du geboren bist and was originally sung by Rolf Zuckowski.

Here is how it goes:

Wie schön, dass du geboren bist, 

wir hätten dich sonst sehr vermisst,

wie schön, dass wir beisammen sind,

wir gratulieren dir, Geburtstagskind.

And the translation:

It’s great that you were born.

Otherwise, we would have missed you very much.

It’s great that we’re together. 

We congratulate you, birthday child.

Those aren’t the only songs that Germans sing at birthdays, though. There is another one that is different from the other songs in the way it doesn’t mention the word birthday anywhere

. Here are the German lyrics together with the translation.

Hoch soll sie/er leben! 

Hoch soll sie/er leben!

Dreimal hoch!

Long may she/he live!

Long may she/he live!

Three cheers!

This song will sometimes be sung as people lift chairs in the air in the celebratory birthday mood!


An Extra candle on the Cake

Besides every candle for the person’s birthday, Germans add another candle for good luck. The candle might be a bit larger than the other candles to stand out. You can only speculate on how that cake will look with that many candles when a person starts to get older!

Cakes Don’t Always Need to Have Candles

Although it is common to decorate cakes with candles, they don’t always have to be on the cake. That’s because they can be in a special wreath that’s made specifically for the birthday person. This is common for the more elaborate family birthday celebrations for kids.

The candles might be by their beds or in a candle holder at the dinner table. 

Expect Numerous Handshakes on Your Birthday

Once it is your birthday and there isn’t a chance of risking bad luck by wishing you a happy birthday early, it is customary to wish the birthday person the best as you vigorously shake their hand. That means the birthday person might shake hands with everyone for the whole day.

Birthday Poems

The birthday person composes funny poems which they will read to the family members. From that, we don’t need much to know that most Germans have a great sense of humor. Besides that, there are many embarrassing things meant to create fond memories that the birthday person is made to do.

It seems German birthdays are quite a fun event if you’ll be creating all those memories, foolish or not.


Mother, baby and two daughters, fathers arm holding a birthday cake
  • German birthdays are a family affair and will involve most members so the family no matter how far.
  • While everyone gets to enjoy their birthday, no one gets to enjoy them as well as German children. German children get special treatment the whole day, from choosing what the family will have for dinner to not being given homework at school!
  • Compare that to the adults who have to spoil guests and foot the bill for their birthday celebrations. That might be something Germans are already used to. They might, however, recoup some of the money they put into buying everyone a cake from the gifts they will bring.
  • Celebrating a birthday in Germany is pretty special, as evidenced by the celebration and the customs surrounding it. Woe unto the person who celebrates certain birthdays (the 25th and 30th) while still single, though! Your German friend will surely appreciate it if you surprise them with some facts you’ve learned here. 

And finally remember – if your German friend’s birthday is around the corner, remember not to mention it before the actual date. And oh, vigorously shake their hand when you finally get to wish to tell them Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!




Samantha Bellerose

Samantha Bellerose is the creator and main writer for The Birthday Party Website. She is a mother to four kids and she loves preparing and planning birthday parties for her family and friends. Samantha is also the writer, creator and owner of several other websites and has found a passion for sharing her knowledge and experience as an educator online!

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