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Camp Hess Kramer Happy Birthday Song/Celebration

A Jewish summer sleep-away camp in Malibu, CA by the name of Camp Hess Kramer holds hundreds of Jewish kids ranging from eight to seventeen for most of the summer.  As the kids are away from home, often for the first time for extended periods of time, the camp makes an extended effort to make birthday celebrations for kids who have birthdays during a camp session especially special.

A birthday celebration at the Camp Hess Kramer is quite different from the average singing of happy birthday song for an individual.  Typically, two different counselors create a new inventive skit that integrates the camper with the birthday into it.  The skit takes place in the dining hall where all the campers have gathered for a meal — breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  While the skit takes place the camper is asked to come to the center of the room and must perform some activity involving the skit.  After the skit ends a unique version of happy birthday song is sang to the camper. The song goes as thus:

“Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday. Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you.  Skip around the room, skip around the room, we won’t shut up till you skip around the room. Skip around the room, skip around the room, we won’t shut up till you skip around the room.  Go the other way, go the other way; we won’t shut up till you go the other way.  Go the other way, go the other way; we won’t shut up till you go the other.  Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday. Happy birthday to you”

This song is sung for each birthday camper and also a previous version had at the end a chant where all the campers say, “Lick the floor! Lick the floor! We won’t shut up till you lick the floor!”  This version in the past few years has been taken away because of sanitary issues — as one can imagine the floor of a dining hall at a sleep-away camp is far from clean. During this song the camper must follow the song and physically follow the song’s directions as “skipping around the room” and different things like that.

I found this story of the happy birthday song rather interesting because it is a variation of the tame, mundane “Happy Birthday Song” and shows kids ability to turn twists and ideas onto songs.  The “lick the floor chant” reveals younger kids interest and making others complete gross tasks similar to dares that people make each other do.  The celebration for the kid in front of the camp also occurs I think to make him feel more special.

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