Raising A Glass: The Significance And Traditions Of Irish Birthday Blessings And Toasts

It is no secret that the Irish love a good celebration, especially if we can include some traditional birthday blessings and toasts there. We love any excuse to get our loved ones together and celebrate one another.

When it comes to birthday celebrations, there are a few traditional ways you can toast the birthday boy or girl. Whether it be in English or Ireland’s native language, Irish.

Now, I will let you in on a little secret here. Irish tradition is not quite what you may think it is. Yes, we have certain traditions that most Irish families still partake in but when it comes to birthday blessings, some of these are beginning to fall out of favour with the younger generation.

Where you are in Ireland will also dictate whether you get to witness a traditional Irish birthday blessing. The closer you are to the Gaeltacht areas (parts of Ireland where Irish is spoken as a first language instead of English) the more likely it is for the locals to use more traditional Irish blessings.

But that shouldn’t stop you from learning a few. They are still a part of Irish history and culture and there’s nothing wrong with brushing up on your Irish – the locals will certainly appreciate the effort.

Traditional Irish Birthday Toasts

If you are looking for some traditional ways of wishing your loved ones a happy birthday, you are in the right place.

Here are some traditional ways to extend your birthday wishes both in Irish and English.

Traditional Irish Birthday Toasts

Simple Irish Birthday Toasts

If you want a short and sweet Irish birthday toast but Happy Birthday just doesn’t quite cut it, then here are a few short and sweet ways you can toast someone’s birthday with a little more personality. 

All of these simple Irish birthday blessings are really just direct translations of English and so they don’t have much history.

This first one, however, could have originally come from the old Irish proverb that says “May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent” as it just says in English “may you live to be 100 years”. 

I think it’s a beautiful way of wishing a long and happy life to someone.

“Go maire tú an céad”

Go mah-ra tu ahn ceyd

This next one is pretty traditional when it comes to a toast and the use of the Irish language. This particular blessing can be used in many different situations, not just for birthdays, so it’s a good one to have in your back pocket.

In English, it says “Health and wealth”.

“Sláinte Agus Táinte”

Slawn-cha aw-gus tawn-cha

I know what you’re thinking. So far, some of these Irish birthday blessings seem a little morbid. 

You need to remember that a lot of Irish birthday blessings became common during the time of the great famine when blessings and toasts were flung around in abundance in the hopes that they would help friends and family live long – because that kind of hope and life was in short supply at the time.

A twist on the may you live 100 days blessing, the following Irish birthday wish translates to mean “may you survive the day”.

“Go Maire Tú An Lá”

Go mah-ra tu uhn blah

Irish Birthday Wishes In English

If you are struggling to get your tongue around the Irish language, don’t worry you’re not the only one, even some of us Irish struggle with the language at times. 

So, how about some birthday quotes and sayings in English? Some work beautifully as a birthday wish written on a card, while others are short, sweet and easy to say in person.

Irish Birthday Wishes In English

“May You Live As Long As You Want, 

And Never Want As Long As You Live.”

It may feel less traditional to give an Irish birthday toast in English but Ireland has been speaking English since the early 1800s. This was when Irish schools began to offer Irish children the opportunity of an education.

However, it’s also well known that these schools were incredibly anti-Irish and they would force children to abandon their native language and adopt English in its place.

This is why many traditional Irish birthday blessings can be easily found in both languages.

“May luck be your friend in whatever you do,

And may trouble always be a stranger to you.”

The next blessing is more of a poem and one that some people will dedicate to their grandchildren on their birthdays. It’s relatively short but is chock full of Irish meaning and sentimentality.

“Always remember to forget,

The things that made you say.

But never forget to remember,

The things that made you glad.”

Birthday Greetings

The following blessing may have also come from the Great Irish Famine, but I still think it is relevant today.

“Do not resent growing old as many are denied that privilege.”

If anyone has visited Ireland or befriended Irish people, you know we have our own sense of humour that can be difficult to understand. Sarcasm is rife and we love to play on the dire side of life. There’s no better way to make light of the darkness than a good joke. 

So here are a couple of Irish blessings and funny Irish birthday quotes that really show off that good old Irish comedy.

“May misfortune follow you for the rest of your life

but never catch up”

Or how about this funny Irish birthday blessing?

“May your troubles be as few and as far apart

As my Grandmother’s teeth.”

This next one is my favourite funny yet traditional Irish birthday blessing.

“I’ve drank to your health in taverns,

I’ve drank to your health in my home,

I’ve drank to your health so many damn times,

I believe I’ve ruined my own.”

Irish Birthday Blessings In Irish

There’s nothing more traditional than wishing someone a happy birthday in Irish but how about going that little bit further? 

It’s easy to say Happy Birthday in the Irish language but it requires a little bit more time to memorise these next ones. I promise you they are worth the extra effort

With so many of our Irish people having to emigrate over the last few years, the next one is just as meaningful now as it was during the mass emigration of the Great Famine. Emigration has unfortunately become a massive part of Irish history and this Irish birthday blessing encapsulates that.

“Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn.”

Fawd say-al aw-gut, gub fluk, aw-gus bawss in Aye-rinn 

In English, this means “May you have a long life, a wet mouth, and may you be buried in Ireland”. 

Another similar Irish birthday blessing translates to May you have a healthy heart and a wet mouth. 

“Croí folláin agus gob fliuch”

Cree full-awn aw-gus gub fluk

If you’re wondering what a wet mouth may be, that’s simple. It just means may you always have a drink at hand. Very Irish indeed.

In Irish mythology, the Fianna warrior leader, Fionn mac Cumhaill captured a Salmon that contained all of the world’s knowledge. Although he was not supposed to eat the salmon, after cooking it he licked a drop of its fat from his finger and received all of the wisdom.

The next Irish birthday wish may have stemmed from this tale or it could just be a connection to the determination and strength of this fish.

“Sláinte an bhradáin agat”

Slawn-cheh on vraw-dawn ogg-ut 

When translated into English, this particular birthday wish says ‘May you have the health of a salmon’.

How To Give An Irish Birthday Toast?

Luckily for us, an Irish toast follows most global toasting rules. If you are attending an Irish birthday party, then here is how most blessings and toasts generally go.

How To Give An Irish Birthday Toast

Gently tapping a wine or champagne glass is a popular and common way to announce that you are making a speech or toast and is perfectly acceptable at an Irish celebration.

However, if you have experienced an Irish pub mid-celebration, then you already know that refined manners tend to be forgotten and ‘be quiet’ shouting becomes more common.

You can say a little speech before your Irish blessing but it’s not actually necessary. You can raise your glass to the birthday boy or girl and speak your chosen birthday toast.

If you want to personalise your birthday toast, you can do this in any way you, please. You can choose a quote or saying that has personal meaning to them or pick one that captures their humour.

Most Irish toasts and blessings are very generalised and unless you want to use your creative imagination and create your own, they can lose their traditional feel if we alter them.

Variations On The Irish Birthday Toast

As I said before, many traditional Irish birthday blessings have quickly fallen out of favour in Ireland and it is rare to actually hear them spoken anymore.

Unless you are surrounded by some of the older Irish generations – and I’m talking in their 80s upwards – then you may get to hear a traditional birthday blessing uttered.

Variations On The Irish Birthday Toast

These days you will find traditional Irish birthday wishes are more commonly used in Irish American families as they try to reconnect or stay connected with their Irish heritage.

However, in Ireland more modern and familiar ways of saying happy birthday are used.

Saying Happy Birthday In Ireland Today

In Ireland, we mostly just say happy birthday. A simple birthday wish has always been traditional and popular. If you want to go a step further you can say Happy Birthday in Irish.

Now, the Irish language can be a little tricky to master for beginners but this one is easy for everyone.

Saying Happy Birthday In Ireland Today

“Lá breithe sona duit!”

Law breh-ha sun-ah ditch

You may see this written as breithe shona dhuit as well. It is spoken the same way, it’s just a different dialect spelling.

Or if you want to say happy birthday to more than one person in Irish, and sound even more impressive with your Irish language skills, then give this one a go. It’s the plural form of Happy Birthday and directly translates to say, day of birth happy to you.

“Lá breithe sona daoibh!”

Law breh-ha sun-ha reeve

Singing Happy Birthday In Irish

The traditional happy birthday that you know well is sung just as often here in Ireland.

Singing Happy Birthday In Irish

Now, you can translate it into Irish and you may find some Gaeltacht schools and families may sing happy birthday in Irish but it’s more common to sing this song in English.

However, if you want to sing it in Irish, it’s really easy. The only difference you might notice is that we don’t add in the birthday person’s name when we sing Happy Birthday in the Irish language. 

“Lá breithe sona duit

Lá breithe sona duit

Lá breithe, Lá breithe

Lá breithe sona duit”

Wondering what it says? Well, it’s not very inventive or imaginative and it says “happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you” but it does the job.

The Best Birthday With An Irish Blessing

Although traditional Irish blessings and toasts aren’t as commonly used and seem to have slipped away from modern Irish culture, they are still an important part of Irish history.

The Best Birthday With An Irish Blessing

A lot of our famous birthday toasts seem to have begun around the time of the Great Famine and really encapsulate what was most important to the Irish back then. Health, happiness, and always having a drink in your hand.

Many of our older Irish generations still use some of the blessings, especially if they have a religious connection, and it can be a fantastic way to connect with your older Irish relatives.

So, however, you choose to celebrate your loved one’s birthday, an Irish blessing or two can never go wrong and can add a bit of Irish tradition to your celebrations.

Natasha Peters

I am a British-born copywriter who moved to Ireland over a decade ago and have been captivated by Irish culture, landscape and folklore. I enjoy sharing my passion for Ireland through my writing as a freelancer.

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