happy birthday in russian

26 Ways to Say Happy Birthday in Russian

Russians love having reasons to celebrate

At some point or another, as your Russian improves and you make more Russian friends, chances are you’ll get invited to a birthday party.

That’ll give you the opportunity to say happy birthday in Russian—or, at the very least, pick up ways to celebrate birthdays Russian-style.

Here’s the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about celebrating a birthday in Russian. We’ll delve into the standard phrases Russians use to convey пожелания (wishes) for a birthday or any other holiday, as well as customs and traditions surrounding Russian birthdays.

Contents

1. С днём рождения — Happy Birthday (Traditional)

С днём рождения is the simplest and most traditional birthday greeting in Russian. It’s the one that’s most commonly used, and you can use it for a person of any age. 

2. Поздравляю с днём рождения — Happy Birthday (Formal)

This is a more formal birthday greeting compared to С днём рождения. If you just found out that it’s your coworker’s special day, for example, and you don’t necessarily have a close relationship with this person, saying this to them can help break the ice!

3. С днём варенья — Happy Jam Day (Very Informal)

This is a fun way of wishing children or very close friends a happy birthday. С днём варенья is a play on words and sounds a bit like С днём рождения .

4. Я желаю Вам… — I Wish You… (Formal)

If you’d like to compose your own wish for the именинник (birthday boy) or именинница (birthday girl) in a formal context, start with Я желаю Вам.

Then, add one of these choices:

Put it all together, and you’ll have a heartfelt birthday wish.

5. Я желаю тебе… — I Wish You… (Informal)

This is basically the more informal version of Я желаю Вам. You can also cap this off with the phrases we’ve just talked about above.

6. Ещё раз с днём рождения — Once Again, Happy Birthday

As you’re leaving a birthday party, be sure to thank your host and reiterate your well-wishes to the birthday boy or girl with this phrase.

7. С прошедшим днём рождения — Happy Belated Birthday (Formal)

Sometimes, you find out that you (gasp!) missed someone’s birthday. In that case, you can always redeem yourself by saying this one to your coworker or someone you don’t know very well.

8. С прошедшим — Happy Belated Birthday (Informal)

This is the informal way to wish someone a belated happy birthday. It’s used for people you know very well. 

9. Расти большой, не будь лапшой — Grow Big, Don’t Be a Noodle

This is an acceptable greeting if the celebrant is a child—and if they’re fine with it, of course!

In Russia, guests traditionally pull the birthday celebrant’s ears for each year of their age plus one. So, if someone’s turning 11, you’d pull their ears 12 times.

While this is happening, you should chant Расти большой и не будь лапшой! In other words, as you grow up, don’t be foolish!

10. За здоровье — (A Toast) To Your Health

Russians are known for their love of водка (vodka).

At Russian birthday celebrations, one person will sometimes take the responsibility of toastmaster for the night.

This is an important role, particularly considering that it’s common to make a тост (toast) for each round served.

To start off, you can toast the виновница торжества (female hero of the day, i.e. female celebrating the birthday) or виновник торжества (male hero of the day, i.e. male celebrating the birthday).

Toasts are often directed toward the celebrated individual’s parents or family members, too.

Aside from За здоровье, some other important vocabulary to know in relation to toasts include:

11. На здоровье — You’re Welcome (In Response to Being Thanked for Food or Drinks)

Ill-informed foreigners frequently say На здоровье! to say “Cheers!” at a toast, which is incorrect.

In reality, На здоровье is more appropriately used in place of “You’re welcome” when someone thanks you for food or other refreshments, as in the following example:

Спасибо за кофе. — Thank you for the coffee.

На здоровье, Саша. — You’re welcome, Sasha.

12. Поздравляю с днём рождения — Congratulations on Your Birthday (Formal)

If the celebrant is someone you don’t know well, and you want to go beyond the standard formal greeting, use this one.

13. С днём рождения тебя — Happy Birthday to You

This is similar to С днём рождения, except you’re specifically addressing the celebrant.

14. Поздравляем с днём рождения — We Congratulate You on Your Birthday

If you’re greeting the celebrant as a group, use this phrase.

15. С праздником — Happy Holiday

While праздник translates to “holiday,” you can also use it to wish someone a happy birthday—especially if their birthday also happens to fall on a holiday.

16. С днём рождения, дорогой / С днём рождения, дорогая — Happy Birthday, Dear

If the celebrant is your significant other, this is the phrase to use. Make sure to use the right term of endearment!

17. Пусть этот год принесёт много радости — May This Year Bring You a Lot of Joy

Want to wish the person a great year ahead? Use this one.

18. В этот день пусть сбудется всё, что задумано — On This Day, May Everything You’ve Planned Come True

If you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself, tell the celebrant that you’re wishing them a great day on their birthday. You can also say:

19. Поздравляю с твоим днём — Congratulations on Your Day

Getting old may be something that happens to everyone, but it’s still an event worth celebrating. More years often translate to more experience, after all.

20. С тобой всегда весело — It’s Always Fun With You

Is the celebrant someone who can only be described as a “ball of sunshine?” Using this phrase can help make your greeting feel a little more personal.

21. С наилучшими пожеланиями — With Best Wishes

This is a simple yet sweet way to say happy birthday in Russian.

22. Желаю тебе вдохновения и творческих успехов — Wishing You Inspiration and Creative Success

For the birthday celebrant who happens to be an artist or creative person, this greeting will be music to their ears.

23. С днём рождения, замечательный человек — Happy Birthday, Wonderful Person

If you really want to emphasize how much the birthday celebrant means to you, use this one.

24. Пусть этот год будет лучше предыдущего — May This Year Be Better Than the Previous One

As you know, not all years are good. If the birthday celebrant has had a rough year, this may be an appropriate greeting.

25. С юбилеем — Happy Jubilee

You can also say С юбилеем to someone for every five to 10 years of their life. However, I’d only suggest using this with people you know well, as there’s no consensus as to whether a jubilee should be every five or 10 years.

26. Пусть вокруг будет много улыбок и добрых слов — May There Be Many Smiles and Kind Words Around You

Finally, use this to help the celebrant attract good people to them.

Birthdays in Russia: Fun Facts and Essential Traditions

Celebrating your Russian friends’ birthdays is much more than just learning some stock phrases. Here are some of the most important Russian birthday facts and traditions.

Russian birthdays are very important occasions.

As such, birthdays in the Russian-speaking world demand more attention than other holidays.

For instance, birthday подарки (gifts) are typically more expensive than Новый Год (New Year’s) or Рождество (Christmas) gifts.

Birthdays are never celebrated early.

Birthdays are always celebrated on the actual date. If the birthday falls on a weekday, it’s celebrated on the following weekend.

Never wish someone a happy birthday in advance of the actual date, as this is considered bad luck.

The 40th birthday is considered bad luck.

Most people elect not to acknowledge the 40th birthday, because the number 40 is associated with death.

There are birthday gifts that are appreciated more than others.

If you’re unsure what to get for the birthday boy or girl, there are a few choices that’ll always be appreciated.

Money is always a welcome birthday present, as is chocolate. For men, alcohol is a good choice. For women, flowers or perfume are a good bet.

Flowers are also frequently presented to the mother of the woman being celebrated.

Speaking of flowers, always give an odd number of them.

In Russia, when you’re giving someone flowers, you should always give an odd number. That’s because even numbers of flowers are for funerals, and therefore considered a bad omen.

Also, don’t give yellow flowers.

Similarly, yellow flowers are a faux pas because they symbolize a separation or indicate the relationship is soon to end.

Birthday открытки (cards) should come with thoughtful messages.

While it may be considered acceptable to simply write “Happy Birthday” in a card or text message in other countries, that behavior is considered rude in Russia.

You’re expected to spend time crafting the perfect message to wish the birthday celebrant good health and a happy and successful life, regardless of their age.

It may be okay to ask someone their age, but only in certain situations.

In many cultures, it’s considered rude to ask an individual’s age.

On the other hand, this is an acceptable question in Russia, unless you’re a man addressing an adult woman. If you’re a woman asking this question of another woman, that’s a bit more acceptable.

If you’re asking someone with whom you have an informal relationship, you can simply say:

Сколько тебе лет? — How old are you? (informal)

However, if the person you’re asking is someone you don’t know well, or likely older than you, you should say:

Сколько Вам лет? — How old are you? (formal)

Russian Birthday Songs

There’s a Russian translation of the traditional “Happy Birthday to You” song that’s often used to teach Russian learners the necessary birthday vocabulary. However, this isn’t a song you’d commonly hear in Russia.

Instead, Russians sing a birthday song from the cartoon Крокодил Гена и Чебурашка (Gena the Crocodile and Cheburashka):

This song from an old Soviet cartoon has a sweet, nostalgic quality that’s sure to resonate with Russian speakers. 

Alternatively, you can practice your greetings along with this video from Be Fluent in Russian:

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Eating at a Russian Birthday Party

As with most holidays in Russia and worldwide, birthday parties involve lots of celebratory food and drinks. Typical Russian delicacies include:

  • Борщ (borscht), a red beetroot soup often served with sour cream and dill
  • Салат Оливье (Olivier salad), a variation of potato salad
  • Пирожки (pirozhki), mini oven-baked or fried pies filled with meat, cabbage or cottage cheese and jam, among other things.

Russians love desserts, and the ones handed out on birthdays are no exception.

Торт (cakes) or fruit-filled pies are eaten, and the first piece is always given to the celebrant.

Russians often take cakes to work or school and share it with their colleagues or classmates. More often than not, store-bought cakes are eaten, as there’s quite a delicious selection!

Similar to other countries, Russians place the number of свечи (candles) on the cake equivalent to the age they’re celebrating.

Ideally, when someone задувает свечи (blows out the candles), they should be extinguished simultaneously.

Also, if the person загадывает желание (makes a wish), it shouldn’t be shared with others for fear that it may not come true.

 

Well, there you have it. Soon, you’ll be an expert on congratulating all your Russian-speaking friends and acquaintances. Happy celebrating!

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