How Are Birthdays Celebrated in Spain? A Complete Guide

For most people, their birthday is one of the days they are allowed to feel special. That’s why I don’t blame anyone wanting to pull all the stops to make their birthday the best event ever. But while birthdays are usually significant events, are they that important in Spain? You bet they are. They might be celebrated a little differently, but they still are significant milestones.

In Spain, a birthday is always a cause for celebration, and a big party is held for the birthday person. These celebrations are usually on weekends and will often involve lots of entertainment, food, and dance.

Friends and family do their best to make the birthday person feel special by giving gifts and wishing them a happy birthday, although they are responsible for all the snacks and treats eaten on the day. If in school, the birthday boy or girl brings the cake and other treats to school and can sit in the front row that day.

Spanish people get to celebrate their birthday twice! Imagine that! I know what you are thinking. How do they get to celebrate their birthday twice? If you think that’s surprising, wait till I tell you all about some other Spanish birthday traditions that will further astound you.

Spanish Flag with a Pinata on top of it - The Birthday Party Website

Differences and Similarities Between Spanish and Western Birthdays

Due to noticeable cultural differences between Spain and the Western culture, there are various ways in which Spanish birthdays differ from those in the west. Also, there are a few ways they are similar. For further explanations of all the points in the table read on after this section!

Spanish BirthdaysWestern Birthday
ImportanceIn Spain, a birthday is always a cause for celebration. Whether it’s your child’s first or your 50th-it doesn’t matter; the festival will be just as grand.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 most people defer to for big occasions.
Significant BirthdaysAlthough all birthdays are pretty unique, they pale in comparison to the 15th birthday for girls. This is the most significant birthday celebration for most Spaniards and is thus usually more elaborate.Most Western people place significance on certain birthdays, such as 1st, 13th, 16th and 21st, and then each decade birthday like a 30th or 40th thereafter for example. But any and every birthday can be celebrated. Some people even celebrate half birthdays!
CakeThe cake is a must at a Spanish birthday party. It is decorated with candles and the birthday person cuts it as those present sing them a birthday song.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.
FoodPaella (Spanish stirfry) is one of the typical foods eaten at a Spanish birthday party. That’s besides tapa, churros, and wine as a drink. Most of these foods will follow the birthday person’s desires since they have to like the food.Party food which is 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 BirthdayIn Spain, A baby is zero at birth and turns a  year older on the anniversary of their birthday or the day of their patron saint.In the west, a baby is zero at the time they are born and each year on the anniversary of their birth they turn a year older.
Date of BirthdayFor Spaniards, their birthday is on the day they were born and the day they celebrate their patron saint’s day. Some people might choose to go with the government date alone, in any case.Most westerner’s birthday is 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 hassle they just go with what the paperwork states.
When to celebrateIn Spain, if your birthday falls on a weekday, then you will have to wait for the weekend. A small celebration might be held that day or even days till everyone is present for the more significant feast on the weekend.The birthday celebrations might, however, even go for weeks once they start. They don’t have to be on the exact date only.In the west, if your birthday falls on a week day, 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 are able to get a venue or do an activity you were looking forward to. It is the birthday persons choice, but generally the day would be within a week or two of the actual birth date.
How old are you?It is rude to ask an adult Spaniard their age when their birthday isn’t around the corner. Children, however, have no qualms being asked their age even when their birthday isn’t close- it is okay to discuss the age of children.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 are having a party and you are invited to celebrate with them. Parents on the other hand are always telling everyone all about their children and their ages – it is okay to discuss the ages of children.
Giftsit is okay to bring gifts for the birthday person although it isn’t compulsory. When it comes to gifts, its usually the though that counts rather than the monetary value of the gift- Money as a gift is frowned upon.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.
SongSpaniards sing the Spanish rendition of the Happy birthday song. They sing this song as the birthday person blows candles on the cake and makes a wish.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 Spain Celebrate their birthdays?

Birthday decoration in Spain

Yes, people celebrate birthdays in Spain. They even get to celebrate their birthday twice. Once on their actual birth date and the second time on the day of their patron saint. Spain is majority catholic which explains why most children usually have a particular saint’s name.

Therefore, they dedicate time for a mass at the local church to celebrate their saint patron when celebrating Saints Day. This is known as Saints Day, and it’s common to meet several other children who share the same patron saint’s name at a church celebrating saints’ day.

There is a lot of singing and dancing with food being in plenty not to mention the cake. Happy guests wish the birthday person a happy life with the words Feliz cumpleanos.

Feliz Cumpleanos is the Spanish equivalent of “Happy birthday” but loosely translates to happy completed years.

These birthday parties can be either at home or a local restaurant. The costs for the birthday are usually the birthday person’s responsibility, although that could also fall on the family members.

If you are invited to a Spanish birthday party, you go there all ready to eat and without worrying that you might have to pay for the cost of spoiling the birthday person as this is usually taken care of by the birthday person or their family. As the world modernises traditions do change, so it is always good to confirm with your host before leaving your wallet at home though!

If it is a child’s birthday the parents might take the kids to a fun park where the children will play on a bouncing castle, trampolines, and slides.

If it is a child’s birthday and falls on a school day, parents usually arrange for the treats (including the cake) to be taken to school. The other kids with the birthday girl or boy have a happy birthday as they enjoy the goodies they brought them. The birthday person gets to sit at the front row (if that’s not their usual sitting position) and dons a unique party hat for the entire day.

Spanish birthday celebrations don’t last only for the actual birthday. Instead, they can go on for as long as weeks or even a month. The Spaniards clearly don’t let the shackles of time hold them back from giving good cheer to someone turning a year older.

Do Spanish people celebrate any special or specific Birthdays?

La Quinceañera 

Spanish people don’t have many significant birthdays, with the only exception being a girl’s 15th birthday. The 15th birthday in Spain is the American equivalent of the sweet sixteen birthday and usually celebrates a girl attaining womanhood.

A typical morning for a girl celebrating her 15th birthday is listening to songs from a mariachi band before being serenaded with Feliz cumpleanos wishes.  She dresses in the best clothes and goes to give thanks in the church.

The girl even has a party of fourteen people, representing the previous 14 years of her life. She is given heels to wear to mark the day since flats are said to be for girls and not women. That, however, doesn’t mean she can’t wear flat shoes anymore since that is usually by choice. 

La quinceañera, as the 15th birthday is usually called, is a more elaborate affair than your everyday birthdays. As a result, this might go on for longer than the birth month. Since it is a milestone, it is common to see the celebrations drag out months after the initial celebration.

On the day of the celebration, the quinceañera will typically have most of her family around, from brothers and sisters to uncles and cousins. Male father figures might take their time to waltz with her, although it is customary for her father to dance with her first. This tradition has its roots in Mexico but is now widespread in Spain and most Latin countries.

What Food is Eaten at a typical Spanish Birthday Party?

Spaniards, like most other people, have a rich food culture. Therefore it is common to see all types of traditional Spanish foods at a birthday party. The most popular of all the party foods, however, is paella. Paella is a rice dish cooked with meat such as chicken or seafood and is a speciality throughout Spain.

Besides paella, Spanish people also enjoy eating tapas at birthday parties. Tapas are small snacks and can be presented in many forms with fish, dips, bread, and cheese, the main ways they are eaten.

Another traditional food at Spanish birthday parties is turron. That is a unique traditional Spanish dessert that is prepared with eggs, almonds, and sugar. They often look and taste like candy and are a party favorite, especially if kids are present.

Churros are also another famous dish at Spanish birthday parties. Churros are a fried donut, but instead of being round they are long and have a star shape at the ends. This shape creates alot of surface aread for dusting sugar and for catching chocolate which you dip your churros into!

If the party is for children, the most common foods will be sweet sugary foods treats such as candy, biscuits, pastry, and juice.

Do people have birthday cakes at their parties in Spain?

Of course, yes, people have cakes at birthday parties in Spain, and it wouldn’t be a birthday without a cake. How else would the birthday girl or boy blow candles and make a wish?

There is no specific birthday cake that Spanish people prefer since there are so many types of cakes. But of all the traditional Spanish cakes, the San Marcos cake is a relatively popular option.

Chocolate and the Tarta de Santiago cakes are the other popular cakes eaten at Spanish birthday parties.

It is worth noting that the cake chosen should be one the birthday person will like. The cake has much significance since traditionally. That’s because it is customary for the birthday person to take the first bite before anyone else can test it.

Do People in Spain Give Gifts at Birthday Parties?

People in Spain carry gifts to birthday parties although it isn’t that important. Most people love to bring gifts for the birthday person because they probably aren’t paying for anything. It’s the duty of the birthday person and or their family to pay for everything at the party.

The types of gifts one can bring will often vary depending on the person celebrating their birthday. Spanish people are usually thoughtful, caring people, so they love it when people give much thought to the gifts they bring.

Money doesn’t count as a thoughtful gift. If you are going to a La Quinceañera birthday, jewelry, a dress, a gift basket, and a birthday card are okay to offer. Besides that, you can also buy the heels if you feel like it. If it’s a man’s birthday, then a wallet or the traditional Spanish belt could work. For kids, toys are a popular gift alongside a trip to the theme park.

No matter what gift you choose, ensure it is as thoughtful as possible.  And of course, it has to be a gift the birthday person will like. Remember, money doesn’t count as a thoughtful gift.

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

The Spanish version of the Happy birthday song is sung as the birthday person cuts the cake. People could sing some other birthday songs, but the famous happy birthday song is the most popular.

Here’s how it goes.

Feliz cumpleaños a ti 

Happy birthday to you

feliz cumpleaños a ti

Happy birthday to you

feliz cumpleaños querido/a(name)

Happy birthday dear (NAME)

feliz cumpleaños a ti.

Happy birthday to you.

There’s yet another song that is sung for the birthday person in Spain. Below are the lyrics in Spanish and English.

Feliz, feliz en tu día
amiguito que Dios te bendiga
que reine la paz en tu vida
y que cumplas

It loosely translates to this in English:

Happy, happy on your day
little friend God bless you
may peace reign in your life
and that you fulfill



The Quinceañera tradition isn’t the only thing Spaniards share with Mexicans. The hitting of pinatas is also a common occurrence in most Spanish birthday parties. Like the Mexicans, the birthday boy or girl is blindfolded then given a bat to hit the pinata as people encourage them.

The pinata is usually a paper mache or cardboard structure in the form of an animal or any other shape the organizers would like. It is generally stocked with goodies that a person tries to retrieve by hitting it.

The pinata is an integral part of the birthday celebrations, especially if kids are involved or you are organizing a child’s birthday party.

There is no specific song sung as the person hits the pinata. If you plan a Spanish-themed birthday party and want to add in more fun, then a pinata must figure high in your plans.

Saints Day and Birthday Celebrations

Although Spanish people seem to enjoy celebrating birthdays today, did you know that it wasn’t a given for most Spaniards to celebrate their birthdays? In the past, Spaniards used to celebrate their birthday on the day of their patron saint.

Say you are named Juan (Spanish for John), you would have celebrated your birthday on the day St John died. That’s usually on the day the saint was canonized or the day they died. For people named Juan or other iterations of John, Saints Day is usually on June 24th. You’ll hear Spanish people also refer to this day as my “name day.”

It’s easy to keep track of your Saints day because most Spanish calendars often include the saint’s days. You, therefore, wouldn’t worry about having to miss out on celebrating your “name day.” That wouldn’t even be an issue since most Spanish parents rarely forget their children’s “name days.”

Such celebrations would usually be lowkey and would most likely involve going to mass then coming back to a quiet day.

In modern times, however, celebrating birthdays became the norm rather than the exception. Instead of doing away with saints day, they decided to celebrate on both days. That’s how the Spanish people came to have two birthdays instead of one.

It’s impossible to imagine how life would have been if they had decided to stick to the tradition of only celebrating Saints Day instead of their birthdays. All we can say is thanks to modernity for the chance to have modern birthdays in Spain.


  • Apart from Spanish people having two birthdays, they have an elaborate celebration for a girl’s 15th birthday. What they lack in the number of significant birthdays they compensate for by having elaborate Quinceañera birthdays. (Well, all the other birthdays are also quite elaborate!)
  • Birthdays in Spain can last for days, weeks, and even months after the original date. That I’m sure would make most people want to jump on a plane and relocate to Spain for such festivities. The dampener to that, however, is that it is the birthday person who spoils the party-goers! 
  • It is typical to have lots of traditional Spanish foods at Spanish birthday parties. After all, it is a festival and apart from song and dance, why should food be the exception?
  • It is okay to give gifts to the birthday person, but that shouldn’t always be money. Spaniards go out of their way to get as thoughtful as they can when gifting people on their birthdays. It might just be simple jewelry, but the person gifted will appreciate the thought behind it.
  • To put it simply, Spanish people love a party, and a birthday party is one way they go all out to celebrate. Did anything from how they celebrate birthdays surprise you? Surprise your friends with what you learned here, more so if they’re Spanish. Throw them a Spanish-themed birthday party if it’s their day, and remember to wish them Feliz cumpleanos.

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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