German Birthday Rhyme


HH is a retired former housewife who lives in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany.

Main Piece:

Am Fenster heute Morgen
Da saßen ohne Sorgen
Drei Spatzen und drei Meisen.
Ja was soll das den heißen?
Sie haben’s mir geflüstert.
Ich weiß es ganz genau:
"Name" hat heute Geburtstag.
Darum der Radau!


At the window this morning
There sat without worries
Three sparrows and three tits.
What is that supposed to mean?
They whispered it to me.
I know it exactly:
It's "Name"'s birthday today
Therefore the noise!


This rhyme is longer and a bit more complex than the now ubiquitous ‘happy birthday’ song is in America, but it serves the same function. Both verses have a space to insert the name of the person who is being celebrated, which makes the chant personalized to the birthday celebrator. I think the inclusion of specifically named bird varieties, sparrows and tits, interesting because while these are common birds, they do place locational limits on the rhyme.

The final line of the verse, “Darum der Radau!” I found a little difficult to translate. I chose to translate word for word, but fear that the implied meaning may not be clear from this literal translation. ‘Darum’ can mean because of, therefore, or hence, and ‘Radau’ has a lot of adjacent translations including noise, racket, and hullabaloo. In effect, the final line of the rhyme is the speakers explaining why they are being boisterous and causing a racket (either through the loud reciting of the rhyme, or the celebratory event they are in the midst of).