Happy Birthday Ritual
Primary Language- Spanish
Occupation- Factory Worker
Residence- Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance- 3/19/16
Every Time it is someone’s birthday, you have to sing Haaaappy Birthday to you, Haaaaappy Birthday to you, Haaaaapppy Birthday to Anthony, Happy Birthday to you. Ya queremos pastel! (Translation- We want cake now!) Shortly after you blow the candles, everyone chants, que lo muerda, que lo muerda (Translation- bite the cake) and when they go in for a bite, you grab the back of the person’s head and slam their head into the cake. After that, we start to cut pieces off the cake where the face did not touch and give a slice to everyone. In Honduras, it was the same tradition except we said feliz cumplanos which is just happy birthday but in spanish.
The happy birthday song alway brings a smile on anyone’s face because it is the time of the year where you celebrate the day you were born. Reina loves to go birthday parties and sing happy birthday, especially the recording of when their faces get plastered on the cake. She learned the song when she was in Honduras from her mother who would sing happy birthday to her along with her other relatives and bought a cake to eat as well. The song means a lot to her because in Honduras, they did not have the money to throw any parties but they had enough to buy a cake so to be able to do the same here and much more makes her feel happy and remember the celebrations she had with her mother.
When performing the happy birthday song, you must say it with a group a people while the birthday person sits in front of the birthday cake. While the candles are lit on the cake, before they blow it, you must sing the song, let them blow the candles, and tell them to bite the cake. Even if they do bite the cake, it’s tradition to just smash their face on the cake either way. Then everyone screams from laughter, takes pictures, and eats the cake that does not have any face on it.
I have had a lot of experience from this birthday celebration since my aunt Reina has celebrated almost every birthday with me. Her husband has usually been the one who bought the cake for us. I have also had an enormous amount of cake in my face. My mother also sings the same song and everyone does the same performance at any hispanic birthday party. It even happens for grown people because the tradition will most likely never change. There are a couple alterations such as saying cha cha cha after you say happy birthday in the song, but in our family, we just clap three times instead. One thing that will most likely never change is the fact that the birthday person must get cake on their face somehow. Finding the root for the tradition through history would be difficult, there is also no particular reason for why it happens. It is all in good fun and just keeps the party going. The face smashing also creates memories in which tons of pictures are taken. The singing is also very special because everyone can have a meaningful birthday celebration despite their income with the song and a cake. The photo uploaded is a picture of my last birthday party where my family and friends completely masked my face with cake. There is almost no chance of escaping so sometimes it is best to just take it in and laugh at it later. This long simple tradition will be maintained in my family for generations to come.