The Happy Birthday Song – Where it Began

Pump It Up Party

Every family has birthday traditions that have been passed down from generations. Whether it includes your heritage, the type of birthday cake you make, or the games you play, traditions can be a large part of your birthday celebrations, especially for kid’s entertainment. There’s one tradition that has stood the test of time around the world, in every language, and at every age- the “Happy Birthday to You” song.

We’ve done some research on the history of this famous tune and here’s what we’ve found out.

Where it Began

The beginning of the happy birthday song has a bit of controversy behind it, with more than one artist being credited with its existence.

The song’s melody originated from a school teachers’ greeting song titled “Good Morning to All”, composed by American sisters Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893, although this accreditation has been questioned.

The first time the combination of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics and melody appeared was in 1912. These first appearances did not include any credits. Updated lyrics that make up the popular tune we sing today was published in a songbook by Robert Coleman in 1924.

Then in 1935, The Summy Company registered a copyright for the song, crediting the Hill sisters as the authors. The value of the birthday song at the time was $5 million.

What About Before the Song?

There is no record of any other specific songs being used at birthday parties or celebrations before the classic “Happy Birthday to You”, but plenty other traditions were celebrated! The Germans created the traditional birthday cake as we know it today in the late 18th century and it became popularized around the world during the American Industrial Revolution.

The entire idea of birthdays started with the Egyptians after they noticed the effects of aging. From celebrating the birth of powerful religious figures, it grew into celebrating “the common man” and we now celebrate our birthdays with gifts, cake, song, and sometimes special birthday party venues!

Are We Allowed to Sing it?

Many people may not have realized that up until the year 2016, “Happy Birthday to You” was actually illegal to sing publicly unless you paid a hefty fee. Singing it publicly could include on T.V., radio or just at a party place. This was due to the copyright that was registered in 1935 and not set to expire until 2030. This changed though once a U.S federal judge ruled that the copyright claim was not valid and the song had no other claim to copyright, placing it in the public domain, and making it free to sing for all.

Celebrating Across the Globe

The traditional way “Happy Birthday to You” is used is by the song being sung to the birthday boy/girl by other guests at the celebration while they present a birthday cake. This tradition has reached across the globe and the recognizable tune has been officially translated into 18 different languages!

Now it’s Your Turn!

The great thing about the birthday song, besides that it usually means the cake is coming, is that it is also very easy to memorize and learn on almost any instrument. Most people will sing the catchy tune at their home or at a kid’s party venue if they have rented a great spot for friends and family to celebrate together. But you don’t just have to sing! You can learn “Happy Birthday to You” by knowing just a few simple notes, on piano, guitar, violin, or any instrument.

The party pros at Pump It Up have seen some amazing renditions during birthday parties and can’t wait to see more. If you would like to share your version of the birthday song with us, connect with us on Facebook or email us today!


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1 Comment
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