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On a Happy Day: Birthday Celebrations in Yucatán

10 january 2024
5 min. de lectura

Everyone loves a birthday, right? Especially if you’re a kid who doesn’t yet have to worry about the calories in the cake, and you love to beat on a piñata, hoard candy, and marvel at all those presents…Of course when you are older, things do change a little. But let’s concentrate on the happier aspects of birthday celebrations in Yucatán!


Birthdays here can be unique in many ways, starting with the theme song of the day.


“Estas son, las mañanitas…” That would be the typical Mexican birthday song, a ditty about the ‘Muchacha Bonita’ or the ‘Muchacho Bonito’ and how everyone has gathered to sing and wish her or him well. Outside of Yucatán, you'll hear it when people are gathered around the cake, despite the song being a literal wake-up call for the birthday person in question.


In Yucatán however, “Las Mañanitas” are only sung in the morning, if at all. The birthday cake song is unique to the region: sung to the tune of Happy Birthday to You, the song is titled “En un Día Feliz” and there are two verses:



En un día feliz
una niña / un niñito nació
que se llama Fulanito
y que sea feliz. 

On a happy day,
A girl/boy was born
Named (insert name here)
And may they be happy


Al partir su pastel
un deseó pidió
que se cumpla el deseo
y que sea feliz.

When cutting the cake
They made a wish
May the wish come true 
and may they be happy



And since Feliz (feh-LEES) rhymes with Lombriz (lom-BREES) or worm and Paris (pah-REES), as in the city, many additional third-verse variations exist, which you will have to hear to appreciate.


Once the song has been sung, the Festejado or birthday girl/boy blows out the candles and is cheered by happy family and friends looking on. Shouts of “mordida, mordida” might follow: as the central México tradition goes, the Festejado is expected to try and take a bite from the cake; at that point some cousin or a malicious aunt or uncle will push the back of the head of the Festejado into the cake and everyone will laugh uproariously. The birthday girl/boy will look up, icing covering her or his face, wondering why this is funny, perhaps bursting into tears. Such is México. 


The birthday song is not the only difference between celebrations in Yucatán and elsewhere in México. There is for example, the famous Yucatecan party platter, which features a homogenous variety (if that even makes sense) of soft foods apt for a child or senior citizen’s palate, including salty and sweet. For foreigners, the challenge is always to keep the sugary merengue from the slice of birthday cake from touching the tamal next to it. Yucatecos not only don't mind, but consider the pairing normal, and even desirable.


While we’re on the subject of the food, drinks are traditionally soft, ie, sodas. For adults, the number one position is dominated by Coca Cola; for children, orange or lemon-lime sodas, or Aguas Frescas. If it is an adult party, beer is popular and this is usually something light; craft and artisanal beers are not that common.


Another local touch is the piñata, which in the rest of México is traditionally hammered at with a stick by a blindfolded youngster.


2401 Cumpleaños en familia c_logo

Yucatecos have determined that this is far too dangerous and make the little ones attempt to punch or slap the hard shell of the piñata, which some children might find painful. The solution? The children wear a plastic bag over their fists, which then comes in handy when scooping up the candies that eventually are let out by an adult and sprinkled liberally around the floor so that all or most of the kids can have the opportunity to grab a few. You will also see the Muchachas or Nanas (young women or girls who are the children’s caretakers) participating gleefully in the gathering up of the sweets, proffering them up unto their charges as per nanny protocol. 


If you have the good fortune to be invited to a birthday party, you can consider yourself largely accepted by the family or persons in question. Be sure to bring good humor and a nice present and enjoy the food, festivities, and fun!


2401 Cumpleaños Destacada


Photography by Alicia Navarrete for use in Yucatán Today.

Ralf Hollmann

Author: Ralf Hollmann

A Yucatecan born in Germany and raised in Canada, with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Ralf has experience in leisure tourism, journalism, research, editing, writing, and creative writing. He’s also a musician.

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