How Are Birthdays Written in Chinese?

Birthdays, a universal celebration of one's existence, hold great significance in every culture. The Chinese, with their rich traditions and customs, have their unique way of expressing birthday greetings. In the enchanting language of Chinese, the simplest way to say "Happy Birthday" is "生日快乐" (shēngrì kuàilè). This phrase, meaning "Happy Birthday," is widely used and understood throughout the country. Additionally, another commonly used birthday greeting in Chinese is "祝你生日快乐" (zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè), which translates to "Wish you a Happy Birthday." With these phrases, one can convey warm wishes and sincerest blessings to celebrate the milestone of another year. Let's explore this fascinating aspect of the Chinese language and culture.

What Is the Chinese Symbol for Happy Birthday?

In Chinese, the written characters representing “Happy Birthday” are 生日快乐. These characters together capture the essence of celebrating the day of ones birth.

The word for “happy” in Chinese is written as 快乐, with the character 快 meaning “quick” or “fast,” and 乐 meaning “joy” or “pleasure.”. When combined, these characters convey the idea of experiencing quick and joyful emotions.

It’s a joyous and momentous occasion that’s recognized and commemorated with heartfelt wishes and expressions of happiness.

Chinese culture places great importance on family and celebrating significant milestones, including birthdays. Birthdays are often celebrated with family gatherings, where loved ones come together to express their well-wishes and show their affection through various traditions and customs.

It’s common for family members and friends to exchange gifts and share a festive meal in honor of the birthday person. In addition to verbal well-wishes, it’s also popular to send written birthday greetings, which may include the characters for “Happy Birthday” as a way to convey warm wishes and blessings.

While the Chinese characters for “Happy Birthday” capture the essence of celebrating ones birth and conveying joy, it’s important to note that the pronunciation of these characters may vary depending on the specific dialect or regional variation of Chinese being spoken or written.

In Chinese culture, birthdays aren’t solely determined by the date of one’s birth, but also by the arrival of the Chinese New Year. This unique approach to age calculation, called nominal age or “xūsuì,” adds an extra year to an individual’s age on every Chinese New Year. As a result, someone is considered to be 1 year old on the day of their birth, and then instantly becomes another year older when the next Chinese New Year takes place. This fascinating tradition adds an intriguing aspect to the way Chinese birthdays are celebrated.

How Do Chinese Birthdays Work?

In Chinese culture, birthdays hold great significance and are often celebrated with elaborate festivities and customs. However, how birthdays are written and understood in Chinese differs from the Western convention. Unlike the Western practice of counting age based on the number of years since birth, Chinese individuals are considered to be one year old on the day they’re born. This is due to the belief that a person begins their life in the womb, therefore, their first year outside the womb is considered their second year of existence.

This practice aligns with the belief that the new year signals a fresh beginning for every individual and everyone advances together in age.

To represent someones age in Chinese, both the nominal age and the Western age system are commonly used. The nominal age, known as “虚岁” (xūsuì), is often indicated by adding the term “周岁” (zhōusuì) after the number, which translates to “years old.”. For example, a child who’s turning three would be referred to as “三周岁” (sān zhōusuì).

While this may seem confusing from a Western perspective, it holds deep cultural significance and symbolizes the cyclical nature of life within the Chinese tradition.

The Cultural Significance of Birthdays in Chinese Culture, Including the Beliefs and Customs Associated With Birthday Celebrations.

In Chinese culture, birthdays hold great significance and are often celebrated with meaningful customs and beliefs. The most common way to express birthday wishes in Chinese is by saying “生日快乐” (shēngrì kuàilè), which means “happy birthday.” However, it’s important to note that Chinese people often consider their age to be one year older than what’s traditionally celebrated in Western culture. This is because Chinese people believe that a person is one year old when they’re born, rather than being considered a newborn.

Chinese birthday celebrations often involve family get-togethers and the sharing of a festive meal. One popular custom is to serve longevity noodles, which are extra-long noodles believed to bring good luck and a long life when eaten on one’s birthday. Another important tradition is giving red envelopes, known as “红包” (hóngbāo), which are filled with money as a symbol of good luck and blessings.

Birthdays are also seen as an opportunity for personal reflection and gratitude in Chinese culture. Many people visit temples or ancestral gravesites on their birthdays to show respect and honor their ancestors. Additionally, some individuals may consult fortune tellers or engage in divination practices to gain insights into their future and seek guidance for the upcoming year.

Overall, birthdays hold deep cultural significance in Chinese culture, representing not only a celebration of one’s birth but also a time for family, reflection, and the embrace of positive energy and well wishes for the future.

Source: Chinese Birthday Traditions – The Woks of Life


So, whether you're attending a Chinese friend's birthday party or you simply want to send well wishes from afar, remember these phrases as they truly capture the essence of celebrating birthdays in Chinese culture.

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