Last night I was at my boyfriend’s Birthday party, and when the Norwegians around me started singing “Hurra for Deg som Fyller ditt år” I thought “Oh damn, I still haven’t learned that song”. Then I fell in shame (as I usually do when this happens) and looked at other people and tried to remember the lyrics. I tried to hop and turn and stuff at the right moment, and hoped nobody would notice. But during the song I looked at the other foreigner in the room, a Colombian guy, and realised he was just saying “Ta ta TA ta” and eventually very loudly “GRATULERER” at the end of the song.
“You don’t know that song either, right?” I asked afterwards.
“Never managed” he said.
THANK YOU I am not alone!!
I have been here for 8 long years and never managed to learn the Norwegian Birthday song. This girl is really not trying to integrate, you might think. Well, yes I am. And I have. I speak and write Norwegian. I have Norwegian friends, and even have a Norwegian boyfriend who laughs hysterically every time he sees me struggling with the song.
“It is so simple!” he says, and then he goes on singing obscure lyrics very fast. I have elected this song the most difficult Birthday song in the world. It not only has a lot of lyrics, it also requires dance moves.
Reasons it is the hardest Birthday song in the world:
- It has an unbelievable amount of lyrics.
In English, all you need to learn is “Happy Birthday to you”. You repeat that a certain number of times, sometimes with the name of the person you are celebrating with. Number of brain cells required to sing this song in English: 3. Number of minutes one needs to remember this sentence: 2.
In Norwegian you need to learn minimum 9 sentences, none of them repeating itself at ANY point.
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?
(There is of course a second verse which has even more lyrics, see below).
2. Strange sentences with words in a messy order
The sentence structure of this song is very strange. It comes from old fashioned Norwegian (or should I say Danish?). Example: Alle i ring omkring deg vi står. Nobody ever says it like that in real life: Everyone in a circle around you we stand.
Ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting: Wish you from our hearts all the good things. And what on Earth does Og si meg så mean?
Now try saying all these sentences very fast, in tempo, with the right melody, and with THE MOVES.
3. The dance moves
Then you also need to learn when to hop and turn and bow. Yes, dance moves are required. And at the right moment in the song. Just look at the Prince and Princess singing for the King’s birthday if you don’t believe me.
Hurray for you for celebrating your birthday!
Yes, we congratulate you!
We all stand around you in a ring, (stand up)
And look, now we’ll march, (march)
Bow, nod, curtsy, we turn around, (bend, nod, twirl)
Dance for you and hop and skip and jump! (hop and jump)
Wishing you from the heart all good things!
And tell me, what more could you want?
Translation of verse 1 is taken from Life in Norway’s article on the topic.
I am telling you, this is an exercise to make sure Norwegians don’t get Alzheimer’s too young. Keeps them active and sharp.
4. Why such a complicated song? Is this part of the Norwegian values?
This could really be a test for foreigners in Norway, because it is so hard.
I am guessing Sylvi Listhaug will soon ask for foreigners to sing this song when wanting to cross the Norwegian border. If you don’t sing the lyrics right or don’t twirl at the right moment, you’re OUT! After having passed the test of eating a whole pack of Brunost and skiing without falling of course.
Don’t worry, for now the best reason to learn this song is not to feel like a fool at birthday parties.
And for those who want to look extra-integrated, here is the second verse of the song (which I have never heard any Norwegian sing, by the way). In my wildest dreams I sing like like a bird in front of struggling Norwegians:
Høyt våre flagg vi svinger. Hurra!
Ja, nå vil vi riktig feste!
Dagen er din, og dagen er bra,
men du er den aller beste!
Se deg om i ringen, hvem du vil ta!
Dans en liten dans med den du helst vil ha!
Vi vil alle sammen svinge oss så glad:
En av oss skal bli den neste!
Til å feste!
We wave our flags up high! Hurray!
Yes now we’ll really celebrate!
The day is yours, the day is great,
But you’re the best!
Look in the ring who you want to choose!
Dance a little dance with who you want to!
We’ll all turn around together so joyfully,
And one of us shall be the next!
If you want to laugh real hard, I was interviewed by the Norwegian radio NRK P1 on the program Norgesglasset, and they asked me to sing the song, or my version of it. Listen here to the podcast.
To thank you for reading until the end, an illustration a little bit more edgy than the first one 😉 They do look like they are on happy drugs sometimes, don’t they?
Want to read more humour texts on how to understand the Norwegians? Check out my book here!
26 thoughts on “The Norwegian Birthday Song Officially the Hardest in the World to Learn. I mean, come on.”
Oh my god. Lorelou, I’ve been a lurker of your blog for years (and I’m also making my way through your awesome book with my subpar Norwegian), but this is the first time I’ve felt like “I MUST COMMENT ASAP” because this post is like the ultimate truth (or something less dramatic?…nah). I’ve been living in Bergen for two years and have too fudged my way through too many awkward birthday songs where I just sit like a lobotomized lump and go, “Duuuh duh duh duh duh duuuuh duh duh duh” until I can triumphantly yell out the ultimate “GRATULERE!” and pretend that I knew what the hell the song was about and why twirling was an integral part of it. Thanks to this post, I just made my Norwegian husband sing the lyrics to me (slowly, repeatedly) until I got it. (I had never bothered to look up the lyrics before, like the responsible immigrant that I am.) Granted I’ll have to sing the song a few hundred more times before I remember it, but at least your post has put me on the right path. (They really should make us learn this song in norskkurs. What the hell did I take all those classes for?)
Anyway, thanks so much for making me feel like less of an inept human for not knowing the Norwegian birthday song already. I shall sleep soundly tonight.
Hi. I am so glad to have found this comment. I was looking around to see if there could be some interest if I wanted to create a youtube video on this song, and now I know. I will make that and upload it on my channel!
I will try to do it this week! My channels name is: Norsk med Lene 🙂
HI Lene, great to see that you are inspired by my blogpost! It has been shared over 5000 times on Facebook, and was published in VG here: https://www.vg.no/nyheter/meninger/i/Eobzzl/den-umulige-bursdagssangen. Please do refer to my work with the name of my blog and of the article when you make your video, and we might even be able to make one together one day.
Lorelou aka A Frog in the Fjord
well, I don’t know half a word in Norvegian, but having learned Dutch at some point I sort of understand the lyrics, and on the royal video it seems all very feasible. Then again, maybe you should try with Polish Birthday songs, they could go on with hours
but I believe you it must be superhard 🙂
“Og si meg så” means “And tell me then”. And no worries, you’ll get the hang of it. I learned the song by, well, listening to others sing, not like I was taught this song or the moves.
Very interesting observation! 🙂
The song is traditional, written by Margrethe Munthe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margrethe_Munthe ) who lived 100 years ago and wrote a number of “educational” childrens’ songs meant to teach kids how to behave – old style!
See for instance “Lua av”, reminding children not to keep their cap on indoors (very impolite those days!). Enjoy! http://www.barnesanger.no/lua-av.html
Ha ha, funny.
The basic tune is traditional Norwegian. Taa, ta-taa. Ta-taa. Ta-taa. Ta-taa. (Long. Short-long. Short-long. Short-long. Short-long…). The basic tune (quint?) is popular in everything “Norwegian” music, from famous children songs (for instance “Per Spellmann han hadde ei einaste ku”) and classical pieces (Grieg: “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”, “Solveig’s song”)
I’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and I don’t know the song, either. Of course, I’ve never bothered to try to learn it–I just do like you and others do and join in on the “gratulerer” at the end. (We sing “Happy Birthday” to my son.)
Hahahaa, exactly!!!! I’ve always thought the same – I’m not living in Norway but I speak norwegian, so I watch a lot of norwegian TV and that damn song is included everywhere all the time! Maybe I’m gonna learn it now as you wrote down the text, I was always too lazy to find it myself :-). Thanks, I enjoyed this post a lot!.
I love these posts 😂
And it’s not actually very easy, is it? I’m at least glad we don’t have the boring «Gratulerer med da’n», as someone translates it to.
Darn…you made me Google: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOW45XodiuE
I am one of the few who actually knows both of the verses. In school we always sang both, and on the second verse the birthdaygirl- or boy got to choose a friend to dance with.
To add insult to injury – the last stanzas of the two verses transcribed in the post are not part of the original lyrics. People just feel that the original verses leave something that should be added.
Oh, I laughed so hard right now. I never knew that THIS was the real test for non-Norwegians 😀 In my family, we only include the second verse when we have a birthday party at my aunt´s house – for some reason. We all have to know the second verse for those four parties a year:)
YES! I have to make sure I have proper Norwegian adults with me at my children’s birthday parties – no way I could ever lead the singing of that song!
Margrethe Munthe was a great reformist in the Norwegian schools and her educational songs was ment to teach children good maners without the use of a cane. Her belief was that song and movement should be a part of the school day. (And I bet you French have a lot of strange children’s song, too!)
Thank you marvellous reading. I am laughing into tears. I grew up in a family always singing both verses, and we still do, and I thought it was so nice to sing both verses that I in my choirs (I work as a choral conductor) always sing two verses when somebody has a birthday! 🙂
If you can sing this birthday song, you are a Norwegian.
The song was originally written in 1911 by Margrethe Munthe, a famous Norwegian child song writer. She wrote it in Dano-Norwegian, that’s why it has somewhat strange expressions.
Hurra for dig som fylder dit aar!
Ja dig vil vi gratulere!
Alle i ring omkring dig vi staar
og se, nu vil vi marsjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu os omkring,
danse for dig med hop og spret og spring,
Ønske dig av hjertet alle gode ting!
Sig mig saa, hvad vil du mere!
Høit vore flag vi svinger. Hurra!
Ja, nu vil vi rigtig feste!
Dagen er din, og dagen er bra,
men du er den allerbedste!
Se dig om i ringen, hvem du vil ta!
dans en liten dans med den du helst vil ha!
Vi vil allesammen svinge os saa glad;
En av os skal bli den næste.
Here are the lyrics in Nynorsk, the modern Norwegian language which about 15 % of the population use.
Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år,
ja deg vil vi gratulere !
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står,
og sjå no vil vi marsjere !
Bukke, nikke, neie,
snu oss omkring,
danse så for deg
med hopp og sprett og spring,
ønskje deg av hjartet
alle gode ting,
og sei meg så kva vil du meire ?
La oss feire !
Høgt våre flagg vi svingar. Hurra !
Ja, no vil vi retteleg feste !
Dagen er din, og dagen er bra,
men du er den aller beste !
Sjå deg om i ringen, kven du vil ta !
Dans ein liten dans med den du helst vil ha !
Vi vil alle saman svinge oss så glad,
for ein av oss skal bli den neste !
Til å feste !
(check the page for notes, this song is “Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år”)
The Sami use a translation of “Happy Birthday”, this is North Sami:
Lihkku beivvin dutnje
Lihkku beivvin dutnje
Lihkku beivvin rahkis (name of the child)
Lihkku beivvin dutnje
from 1:39 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrFbft84MEc
The phrase “Happy Birthday” is Lihkus Riegadanbeaivvis.
This is sooo true. I’ve been here thirty years, and I still haven’t learned it properly. And I’ve never even heard of the second verse – where did you find that?!?
“I am guessing Sylvi Listhaug will soon ask for foreigners to sing this song when wanting to cross the Norwegian border. If you don’t sing the lyrics right or don’t twirl at the right moment, you’re OUT! After having passed the test of eating a whole pack of Brunost and skiing without falling of course.”
I love this. :’) I’ve never thought of that song as particularly difficult, but then again I’ve known it since before I could talk properly. And for the record, when my family are celebrating birthdays we use both verses. 🙂
Det samme for meg: jeg kan norsk men klarer fortsatt ikke å huske sangen! Hurra lalalala la-la-la…vi gratulere…Alle lalalala
Woww, this is so sweet post, love this idea.
It comes to no surprise that the number one requested song around the world for people to sing on one’s birthday is, Happy Birthday. This song has literally been sung billions of times. We sing it so much that if the originator of the song tried to receive royalties on it we would all have to pay big bucks, since we sing it all the time.
Oh, I laughed so hard right now. I never knew that THIS was the real test for non-Norwegians