Las Mañanitas Birthday Song History

For most people who are not familiar with Mexico, Las Mañanitas (lahs mah-nyah-neeh-tahs) is a traditional Mexican song that is sung on birthdays and other important days (including Mother’s Day) to men and women of all ages. It started as a Ranchera song and gradually became associated with birthdays, weddings, baptisms and anniversaries.    
Las Mañanitas is sung just before the cake is cut at birthday parties in homes, at schools, in restaurants – even in the street. It is often sung as an early morning serenade to wake up a loved one.  Most people who hear it are immediately struck by its captive tune and the gentle rhythm of the words.  Besides the memorable tune, Las Mañanitas also offers some moving lyrics which are more appealing than the usual “Happy Birthday Song”. Maybe that’s the reason why many English speakers in Mexico latch on to Las Mañanitas when they hear it.    
The song is strongly associated with Mariachis, who are traditionally commissioned by family or friends to arrive outside the home of the person celebrating a birthday and serenade them at daybreak, waking them from their slumber to celebrate their special day. At most Mexican parties only the first two or four verses are sung.  Mariachis perform a longer version of the song.
Here’s a popular short version of the song:  
Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el Rey David  
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.  
Despierta, *mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció
Ya los pajaritos cantan, la luna ya se metió.  
Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte  
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.  
El día en que tu naciste, nacieron todas las flores  
en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores,  
ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dió,  
levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.  
The English translation:
This is the morning song that King David sang
Because today is your saint’s day we’re singing it for you 
Wake up, my dear (or the name of the person), wake up 
look it is already dawn 
The birds are already singing and the moon has set 
How lovely is the morning in which I come to greet you
We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you 
The day you were born, all the flowers were born,
 In the baptismal font the nightingales sang,
The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its light
Get up in the morning, look it is already dawn. 
 *”mi bien” is replaced with the name of the person being celebrated.