When was "cha cha cha" added to the "Happy Birthday Song"?

As a relatively recent parent, I have been attending my first children’s birthday parties in over a decade, and have noticed that nearly all children now add “cha cha cha” to the end of each line in the song. As in:

“Happy Birthday to you… cha cha cha!” (etc…)

This addition is new to me, but it is so pervasive, it has left me wondering what recent cultural phenomenon I managed to completely miss. I’ve searched the web in vain… can anyone shed light on where it might have originated and how it spread so quickly?


Not only have I never heard anyting like that, but I can’t actually see how it works with the tune. :confused: :confused: :confused:

I heard it at one party about seven years ago in Austin, haven’t heard it since.

My first web searches for “happy birthday” “cha cha cha” (then modified to include -beatles, for obvious reasons) turned up many references, so I believe the phenomenon is not localized to our social circle. But perhaps it’s not as widespread as I thought…


Color me baffled. I’ve never heard the “cha cha cha” addition to “Happy Birthday”.

Colour me bewildered. Who does this?

Every child I know in the state of Arizona. I gag every time I hear it. They just chant cha cha cha at the end of each line.

My son’s eight birthday party this past Friday night - I think all ten guests (7 to 8 year old boys) sang cha-cha-cha after each line. I think I’ve been aware of it for maybe five or six years, but that could just be because my oldest is now just eight.

Want to bet that a popular children’s television show, or a popular children’s record, does this?

What about the “and many more, on channel four, and frankenstein on channel nine” verses. I also assume those weren’t in the original. :smiley:

I can sort of see how you could fit it, if you changed the rythym to a sort of calypso style … eg the nine syllables of “Happy Birthday to you cha cha cha” as 1 - 1 - 3 - 3 - 2 -2 - 1 - 1 - 2 (where each number is how many beats per note)

Do they change the rythym? I can’t see how it would fit in the ordinary rythym either

No change in rhythm (why does that word look so wrong - anyone else just finish reading brain fart thread linked on the front page?), just the normal ‘happy brithday to you’, and then a quick ‘cha cha cha’ in the pause before the next ‘happy biorthday to you’ - come to think of it, it makes the next ‘HBTY’ come a little later than if you didn’t sing it, so the song kind of stops while you insert this. Its not sung, just shouted
In my experience, some people did it, most didn’t. First heard kids doing it when I was 7, and it sounded stupid and wrong then, it still sounds stupid and wrong to me now.

In the 50s a verse was added that went:

May you live a thousand years,
May you drink a thousand beers,
So get plastered, you bastard,
Happy birthday to you.

My grandfather would often add that (when appropriate, anyway). There’s the ‘you belong in a zoo’ one, and, for that matter, the extra words and the end of each line of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (I’m not sure if that’s still used, but we were forbidden to add them in grade school. You know, ‘like a light bulb’ and ‘like Elvis Presley’ or ‘not geography’ at the end.)

I’ve never heard it, but I can see where it fits. There pauses between lines in that song are pretty long and since people always goof with it anyway, it’s not surprising they’d fill the space with something silly.

I don’t remember it in the Birthday song from my childhood but I heard it a lot, though not always (maybe 40%), when I started working children’s parties in the mid-90’s.

But, I’m sure it started further back, and I don’t think it had to have had a single source (like a popular children’s show). Kids just LOVE “Cha Cha Cha’s”!

What I do remember from my childhood is the Chipmunk’s Christmas Album.

We like girls all kinds of girls
From Annie to Veronica
We like them short or fat or tall
I want to play my Harmonica!

Throughout the song Alvin inserts several pleas that he be allowed to play his Harmonica. This gets David very annoyed and he shouts: “ALVIN!” several times.
Finally David breaks down and allows Alvin to play Harmonica at the end of the song. At the end of each line of the melody of Alvin’s Harmonica solo, Simon and Theodore sing their little “Cha Cha Cha’s”- this infuriates David, who attributes this disrespectful behavior on Simon and Theodore’s behalf to Alvin’s bad influence.
He tries to scold them but they continue the song, paying him no notice. In the fade-out a frustrated David laments “It was supposed to be a sweet song, and now you’ve got them dancing and ‘Cha Cha-ing’!”

As kids, my siblings and I thought this was hilarious! From the “Cha Cha’s” all the way through David’s frustrated rant. We saw the “Cha Cha’s” as a wonderfully irreverent addition in which youth asserts it’s presence and identity in the face of “old-fogey-ism”.

I imagine the “Cha Cha’s” will always hold such power and fascination for young children. Basically, they think it’s fun and they know the adults think it’s weird- this makes it all the more special.
It’s basically the kids’ version of this guy -> :cool:

The meter is changed from 3/4 with two measures per line to 2/4, with three measures per line and an extra beat at the end. I guess you could call it 7/4, but there’s a definite “one-two” 2/4 thing going.

‘Happy’ and ‘birthday’ become straight eighth notes, though still lead in notes on the extra beat, or last beat if you’re counting in 7/4 ‘To’ and ‘you’ are quarter notes sung on the downbeats, and ‘cha-cha-cha’ is three eighth notes, with the first ‘cha’ sung on the downbeat of the third measure, or fifth beat, if you’re counting in 7/4.

Of course, being a bunch of six year olds and their parents, about a third of the voices did straight eighth notes, another third sang the same notes we’ve always known and threw in an extra beat, and another third mumbled, but I detected a strong eighth note contingent.

Like I said, I heard it at one party several years ago. For the etymologists, I think the kid’s family was Cuban, but I could be wrong. My kids picked it up for a few years, but I honestly don’t know if they do it anymore. It’s pretty catchy, IMHO.

…But it could have come from a Chipmunks album for all I know… :smack:

I’m not suggesting this was a direct influence. I don’t think many of today’s kids know those old albums. But I have noticed that there really is just something about “Cha Cha’s” that kids just LOVE.

A restaurant I like in Jaffa plays a version of this on the loudspeakers for birthday parties… in Arabic. With a loud dhambuka beat. Funniest thing I ever heard. Thye’ve been doing it for at least the past 7 years.

I have been wondering this exact same thing! It drives me crazy

I don’t normally hang around kids a lot, but a few months ago I made friends with a woman who had an elementary-school age daughter. At her birthday party, I noticed the kids doing this.

YES they say this at the end of every line.
YES it totally screws up the rhythm.
YES they scream it tunelessly at the top of their little lungs.
YES it is the most irritating thing in the world.

I think kids are always looking for a new way to make noise, the louder and more irritating the better.