Besides the springtime in April being a beautiful time in general (Flowers! Long sunny days! Beach time!), it’s also home to TWO team members from The Iceberg Project – yours truly (on April 18) and Rachel (on April 16), our lovely managing editor.
Since Rachel is in Italy, and I’m in America, we got to chatting about the differences between how birthdays are celebrated in Italy compared to how they’re celebrated in America.
In our search (and with the help of the wonderful native Italian Carlotta), we unraveled some differences that you might find interesting if you’re planning on attending an Italian friend’s birthday party or celebrating your own birthday abroad.
Let’s start with some typical vocabulary.
— Le candele / le candeline – Candles
— La torta di compleanno – Birthday cake
— La festa – Party
— Festa a sorpresa – Surprise party
— Festeggiare – To celebrate
— Festeggiato/a – The person celebrating the birthday
— Avrò ___ anni. – I will be ____ years old.
— Oggi ho ___ anni! – Today I am _____ years old.
CPF: you can also use the verb “compiere”: Oggi compio 20 anni. – Today I’m turning 20 years old.
— Ventesimo, ventiduesimo, trentesimo, quarantesimo – 21st, 22nd, 30th, 40th
— L’invito – Invitation
— Il regalo – Gift
— Il biglietto / bigliettino – The card that goes with the present)
— I palloncini – Balloons
— Brindisi – A cheer/toast to the festeggiato
— Canzone di compleanno – Birthday song
CPF: It’s the same tune as US version but the words are:
Tanti auguri a te, tanti auguri a te, tanti auguri a _____ (nome), tanti auguri a te!
— Auguri!! – Best wishes!
— Buon compleanno! – Happy birthday!
— Ti auguro una giornata bellissima! – I wish you a beautiful day!
— Cento di questi giorni! – A hundred more birthdays! (e.g. long life!)
— Hai superato gli “anta”! – You’ve passed the “anta” years!
CPF: Italians say this when you pass your thirties because “anta” is the ending for any other number after 40! It’s considered the youth finish line!
While the majority of the traditional ways to celebrate a birthday (e.g. cake, candles, gifts) are similar between America and Italy, there are a few differences that we should discuss.
If you’re invited to a party in Italy, you can bet that the host (the festeggiato/a) will be preparing all of the food or paying for all of the food for his or her guests. This is a big difference from the US where the birthday girl or boy, while they might prepare food at home, would never be expected to pay for his or her own meal.
Since the festivity is being paid for by the festeggiato/a, gifts are definitely expected and the wrapping is just as important as the gift. Rachel once told me a story about buying some gifts for a friend’s new child, said yes to free gift wrap, and was given a handful of ribbons to use along with the bag. Gifts are expected to be wrapped beautifully. Finally, gifts must be opened in front of guests. Trying to save them to open them while you’re alone is considered a rude gesture.
Have you ever celebrated your birthday in Italy? Leave us any stories or questions in the comments below!
Want to write a birthday card to an Italian? Here’s what you can say.