Ghana-style birthday

In Ghana, they sing happy birthday four times, with different words each time, and some of you might not like it.

Friday the 14th was my birthday. So Dayle threw a little party and invited the staff of the Ghanaian organization we are loaned to.  The sang Happy Birthday to me, just like the folks back home. But then, things changed. They sang it again, this time with the words

How old are you now
How old are you now
How old are you now-ow
Yow old are you now?”

See, I said that some of you wouldn’t like it! Fortunately I had seen Ghanaians do this one other time. So I knew the right response. This time, I sang the tune of Happy Birthday to You, but a bit reluctantly and with the words,

I’m 59 years old now
I’m 59 years old now
I’m 59 years old  now-ow
I’m 59 years old now

In response, the group sang back to me:

May God bless you now
May God bless you now
May God bless you now-ow
May God bless you now

This Ghanaian twist on Happy Birthday To You is a manifestation of a huge cultural difference.  Here, age is revered, valued and considered synonymous with wisdom.  In Ghana, getting old gets you respect. And now you know the real reason I came to Ghana. (Not really. Well, maybe a little.)

Afterwards, our wonderful colleagues, Naana and Sylvester Nkrumah took us out for Chinese. It was a global birthday. At your next birthday and if you dare, I would be glad to come and lead the party in singing you Happy Birthday Ghana style. Of course, I would insist that you participate in full Ghanaian fashion.


(Click on a photo to enlarge it)

2 thoughts on “Ghana-style birthday

  1. Pingback: E-bike

  2. Pingback: Lake Kivu | Heart Language Observations

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