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From the classroom to the party room

August 16th, 2023

Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday to you…

Most people are very familiar with this tune—and some Points West Living residents have been serenaded with it over 100 times!

But did you know that the original song wasn’t intended for parties with cakes and candles? Rather, it was intended as a simple hello to children.

In 1893, two sisters in Kentucky, USA, wrote the song “Good Morning to All,” composing the tune and putting these words to it:

Good morning to you,

Good morning to you,

Good morning, dear children,

Good morning to all.

Patty Smith Hill taught kindergarten, and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The goal was to create a simple greeting that even Patty’s youngest students could easily learn. It and other compositions were published in the Hills’ book Song Stories for the Kindergarten.

So how did it become the birthday anthem? Well, the exact reasons are unknown. Birthday parties weren’t even a big thing before the Hills wrote the song, but started becoming popular at about the same time.

Patty’s students had loved the original ditty, and helped to spread it to other children, and other schools, and so on. Somewhere in there, the words switched to celebrating birthdays.

Soon the new version was in songbooks, and even appeared in Irving Berlin’s 1933 Broadway musical As Thousands Cheer. This helped spread its popularity even further.

Since then, “Happy Birthday to You” has been a standard component of birthdays—and could even be one of the most frequently sung songs in the English language. Thank goodness it spread beyond the classroom!

So the next time you get the chance, belt it out to honour the person receiving it—and say a little thanks to the Hill sisters.

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