Celebrating Birthdays


Celebrating Birthdays

In every household, the family celebration of a birthday marks a momentous occasion. Whether it be the extra attention, special gifts or loving words, everyone looks forward to their birthday. Within each of us, there is a great longing to be loved, cherished and cared for.

Family life affords so many wonderful birthday memories : infants fascinated by balloons; toddlers trying to blow out the candles on the cake, chocolate icing smeared over kids’ faces, excitement and anticipation, special gifts, heartfelt wishes. All evoke special memories in each of us.

Birthdays present a yearly invitation to drive home a powerful message – “You are loved. You are important to me. I care deeply for you.” We show this by remembering the date, setting aside the time, and making the effort to bring joy to our loved one — in a word, deed, and gift. Young moms should strive to start simply and realize each year can be enhanced. A one year old is not even clued in. A two year old enjoys just blowing a candle. A three year old anticipates but still doesn’t need much to be very happy. Take it slow and build your family rituals over time.

Here are some ideas to help you build traditions that count. More than presents, these rituals speak volumes to your kids about how much you love them. Find your own ways. Celebrate with true joy in your heart and make the moment count.

  • In our family, our little tradition consists of bringing the birthday girl or boy breakfast in bed (unless they’re too little) … I usually serve banana chocolate chip muffins (all the kids’ favorite) and chocolate milk in a wine glass.  It sounds funny as I write it, but I find that it really starts their day off on the right foot and they find this very special.  We usually sing Happy Birthday as we bring in the breakfast.  Other things would be choosing their favorite meal for supper and having fun snacks at school.  We also still celebrate with my extended family, but not necessarily on the actual day. Gillian
  • For our own nuclear family – we cook their requested favorites for our family dinner. For children’s parties we always tried to keep numbers down- things just get wild with big groups. We’d let the kids invite the closest buddies.  We often organized a road hockey game, or some other physical activity. Or we would just go to public swimming – sometimes supervising the guests – sometimes inviting the parents to join us. We’d have cake at home, either before or after the outing. I also have taken kids out with 1 or 2 friends to a McDonald’s lunch on a school day. I’d pick them up at lunch hour for a treat, and have an outing. In good weather you could take kids out on a picnic to the local park. With my daughter – we did a craft – like candle making for example – and had cake. Most of the time I’d just have cake and refreshments as the food component, rather than trying to feed people a meal. Other times we’d invite the buddy and his family for a family dinner. We always tried to keep things simple. We didn’t do loot bags – if I had the cash, I’d buy some inexpensive packages of licorice or a chocolate bar – and each kid went home with that. Hope that helps. Chris
  • This year I wanted to make my daughter’s 9th birthday special and had little time. I quickly went through her photo album and pulled out one picture from every birthday she ever celebrated, including the one when she was born. I put them on the living room window for everyone to see. All the kids were so amazed and delighted! Together we reminisced about our old home, our friends and relatives and all the other wonderful things that we saw through this kaleidoscope of pictures. My daughter was so moved she asked if we could keep the pictures up longer, to which we all heartily agreed. When I take them down, I’ll get copies made so I can return them to the album, but put another set in an envelope to make next year’s prep easier and faster. What a great tradition I started that gets us all celebrating, giving thanks and binding us as a family. Nadia
  • In our family, the whole family, except the birthday person, decorates the kitchen with streamers and balloons the night before. Someone makes a big poster, usually with humorous drawings about the interests and talents of the one being celebrated. We also take an area of the kitchen and decorate it with photographs and paraphernalia that speak about the interests, skills, hobbies, joys and achievements of the one being honored. One year for our toddler, there were diapers, baby bottles, favorite stuffed animals, and toys. For our teenager, there would be sports equipment, favorite music, books, DVDs, and pictures. This “tableau” of honor has become quite a surprise and treat for the birthday person. It really helps each family member to think about the the special qualities of the birthday person and honor their uniqueness. Over the years, we save the best for last – a very humorous store-bought card from an aunt which gets everyone laughing, and an amazing home-made card from a sister away at university (which becomes highly prized and cherished). Another tradition we have is that after the family prays grace at each meal on the birthday, everyone shouts as loud as they can “and God bless … on their birthday!!” Awaiting on each plate is a candy to sweeten the occasion. All these little things added together make for a very special day in our house. Irene
  • We often cannot be with relatives on their birthdays because of distance. Our family tries to call and sing them Happy Birthday over the phone. Everyone loves it and takes 2 minutes each to wish the special person all the best. Marian
  • For all the birthdays in our home, we always decorate with a homemade sign with the person’s name and age written in big letters in a banner (the banner is several pages of paper taped together) (sometimes letters/numbers are decorated by mom or other siblings), which we hang on a wooden beam at the edge of our kitchen. We put up balloons and other decorations around the kitchen. We have the sign up the night before (either the actual birthday or the day of the party), so that when the birthday person gets up in the morning, he/she sees the decorations first thing. We keep at least the sign up for a couple of weeks afterwards, and anyone who comes in to visit then knows about the recent birthday and can congratulate the person. Krista
  • Over the years we just started doing these things and they have turned into our family customs. The night before one of our children’s birthdays my husband and I sit and make the birthday card. We play kindergarten as we cut, glue and color our child’s favorite things onto our homemade card. For the little ones we draw pictures of things they can now do: make the bed, get dressed, brush teeth. For the older ones we write encouraging words of how they have grown in virtue: generous with toys, do homework without being asked, do chores well without complaining. The next day all the kids know to come onto our bed (all 8 and still fit!) to watch the birthday girl/boy open his or her gifts. Usually, the kids all bring their little gift bags which they have prepared on their own, with their own marbles, small figurines, hockey cards or stickers to give. That night I cook whatever the birthday boy/girl wants.and the weekend before/after we have brunch after mass with all their cousins, aunts, uncles and their grandparents. The kids look forward to all these customs which have been created by us, almost by accident. It makes birthdays special for them. And they look forward to these traditions year after year. Marianne
  • Since my children were small, we have always had a birthday dinner (their favorite), cake, and for the birthday person, we go around the table and each person says something special about the birthday person. It has always been a good way to show love and to make the person feel special on their day! Caroline
  • Well, my son is turning 2 in a week and, since we are hours away drive from both our families, and, “money-less”, and he has absolutely no idea that his birthday is coming up (he does not understand it), we decided not to throw any party at all. We’ll probably pump a couple dozen of colorful balloons, play any splashy game (he loves water) and probably take him to a special place in the mall. This place contains dozens and dozens of home toys (like Fisher-Price and alike). He`ll probably be amazed at that. Of course, it’s not for free, but it costs something around 7 dollars/hour per child. Younger than 6 months don’t pay (so my daughter won’t pay!), not even parents. I think the most important thing will be the gathering of the family + a lot of joy. Jessica
  • The evening before, we make a small poster and put it on the bathroom mirror that is decorated with the person’s age and something they are into, ie. basketball, etc. Then we usually decorate the dining room with streamers or something. One year we actually made lanterns out of construction paper. The birthday person gets to choose their meal, within reason. Sounds simple but the birthday person really looks forward to it and it makes them feel special. We always do the bumps. One person grabs their hands, the other their legs and we bump their bum gently on the floor for every year they celebrate their birthday. Sometimes we do what one of the kids named the jumping sheet. We lie the birthday child on a bed sheet and everyone else grabs a corner and we throw them up in the air as many times as they are old. Of course we either have a bed or sofa cushions underneath to cushion them. This is hilarious but a lot of hard work. We did it to one of our 18 year olds (the last time for him though). His friend was here as well. We did it to celebrate his birthday too. Well this kid must have been over 200 pounds. Luckily there were a lot of us holding the sheet. I have never heard anyone laugh the way he did. The sheet took a beating though. It’s a family tradition everyone loves and all outgrow because it just becomes too hard to do. I think it will be something they will pass on to their own families. Suzanne
  • As a family, we cherish birthdays by celebrating with breakfast served in bed.  The whole family gets up early to prepare a special breakfast.  This includes juice, weak tea for little ones or coffee for older ones, fresh fruit, crepes or (eggs benedict), syrup, and chocolate, bacon or ham.  We parade to the bedroom singing “Happy Birthday”.  We take a photo of all the gang.  Usually, a sibling stays with the birthday boy or girl to share the feast and keep them company. We also, have a party with their friends and later a meal (with Grandparents) if we can swing it! Karen
  • We always have a Happy Birthday cut-out of multi-colored construction paper (one letter per 8 1/2 by 11) that we put on a bay window we have in our eating area. We reuse these until they are faded by the sun,ripped etc. Looks big and beautiful. This window is also a palette for anything else we want to add – balloons, etc. ( using paper as well).We always do a special homemade cake. Lately the kids like our ice cream cake. Using a glass lasagna dish, 4 litres of ice cream, cookie crumbs and chocolate and or caramel syrup. Pretty much like the ones you buy but so much better.Theme cakes are always fun too. During the Olympics, we used to copy whatever logo might be current. We made a piano one year. For younger ones, there is a neat pool cake you can make with Jello in the middle and Teddy Grahams and wafer cookies to decorate the pool scene. Anyway, you get the idea. More work than money and worth the excitement and anticipation by everyone. Here’s the recipe for the pool cake:POOL CAKE:

    One white cake mix
    Enough icing for  the top of lasagna size cake pan.
    One small box of blue jello mix.  Not sure what flavor this is.
    Honey graham bears
    Rectangular wafer cookies(the pink, white and chocolate cookies with layers of wafer and icing)
    Lifesaver gummies (the rings)  or any gummy rings
    Little drink umbrellas

    Make a regular white cake mix in a lasagna pan.  Glass is best.   When cake is baked, and after it cools, cut a rectangle shape in the middle of the cake, making sure you leave room around it for the “deck”.  Make the jello as per the fast instructions (ie with ice cubes)  and let set slightly in the fridge.  Once it seems to be thickening pour into the middle of cake. Let set in the fridge so that jello is pretty solid. Remove from fridge and ice cake with white icing.  Use bears, and cookies to decorate scene with bears on towels, in the pool on rafts, jumping off a diving board etc. We separate the cookies for some of these things.   The kids can help and they are very creative. Use the life saver gummies as life preservers and floats for the bears and the umbrellas as … umbrellas. It’s a cute cake, though some might not like to eat the jello and cake together. I save the cake I cut out, ice it and offer those pieces to the less adventurous attendees. Keep cake refrigerated until use. Enjoy.

    I have also made the cake cones, using stand up ice cream cones filled with cake, baked, then iced.  I believe this recipe can be found on the Betty Crocker website. The nice thing about these is that you don’t need cutlery, and they are nice portions. Also pretty cute. A full cake mix makes 24. You need cupcake pans for these. Theresa 

  • We always celebrate the Sunday before the big day. We have a special dinner with just family (and local extended family) with cake and a treasure hunt. Sometimes we have a special event for the day, like a fall walk at a provincial park. Mainly it’s about family. We also try to help the kids remember that the focus is not the presents (to avoid the setup for a fall from their own expectations) but about God and family and them on their day. Kari Lyn
  • Our children always enjoyed crafts so their birthday party included this activity. For our son’s 4th birthday we saved up large boxes, taped them together, cut out doors and windows and Voila! A castle was created. I picked up painting aprons, brushes and washable paints at the dollar store. After covering the floor of the kitchen with a large sheet, the children were then free to use their imagination to decorate the castle with paint. The knights and princesses played in the castle for many hours on the day of the party and on following days. This party idea was definitely a success. Debbie
  • A little different twist that I wanted to mention is that kids super enjoy personal gifts. My kids treasure the audiotapes their grandparents make for them on their birthdays. Grandma and Grandpa alternate reading chapters from a great book, and intersperse the reading with personal remarks, like “Just sitting here with my cup of tea, wanting to spend some time with you.” Or “Wasn’t that scary. I wonder what will happen next. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.” Other times Grandma and Grandpa recount special moments in their lives that they want to pass down to their grandchildren. Because they live so very far away, these audiotapes mean so much to my children and help bridge the distance. Sometimes they send a photocopy of a special moment in their lives and write a story beside it to share with their grandchildren. All these things really connect my children to their grandparents and help them feel very loved. Nicole
  • We have only girls in my family. We do many things on their birthday, but one special thing I’ll mention is that my husband presents the birthday girl with a bouquet of flowers. Of course, this is done with a lot of pomp and ceremony. He calls them each his princess. It means so much to them, no matter what their age. Anne


  • Be careful about the standards you start young. Too often people are doing large parties, involving a lot of expense very early on in life. Know each year, your child might expect you to top it. It can get harder on your energy, your pocketbook and your time. Possessions and entertainment do not equal happiness. Strive to keep things simple, meaningful and genuine. Watch out for too much superficiality.
  • Offer alternatives to flashy, expensive parties. Have children come together to play board games, go to a park for a game of baseball, soccer etc. And enjoy a slice of cake together and maybe some hot dogs. Suggest kids giving a donation to a charity of your choice in lieu of a gift. Most kids have all they need and don’t really need presents.
  • Should your children mention something they want during the year, jot it down for future gift-giving reference. This will save you time and energy. Even better, it teaches children to do without or wait, which are both important aspects of character education.
  • Oftentimes parents are overwhelmed by the birthday invitations once their child starts school. The time cost and running around for children we are not familiar with can be quite taxing. In our home, we regularly ask our children about who they play with during school hours. Then when our children receive birthday invitations we ask them to choose only two of their closest friends to attend.
  • If invited to a birthday party, buy something that is useful – art supplies (markers, paints, etc.) for the young, books or good music for the older, rather than something that will become clutter. Consider having your child contribute to the cost of the present from their savings so that it truly is a gift from them.
  • When your children go to a birthday party, call in advance to learn about what will be done at the party, if there will be movies and what kind, etc. Be willing to make better suggestions if needed. Inquire who will be attending and what supervision there will be. Let your child know that they can call home at any moment should they feel uncomfortable about anything and that you will come and pick them up. Also take advantage of visiting for a few moments before or after the party with the hosts to get to know them a bit better.
  • If the birthday party includes a sleepover, feel very comfortable opting out of that part and instead pick up your child at a late hour. Sleepovers usually involve little sleep, late movies, and a lot of unsupervised time and discussion. Don’t be afraid of being different by opting out. Nicer to have a rested child who enjoyed being with friends and can cheerfully continue life’s normal rhythm the following morning.
  • It is important to keep the focus on the person and not get absorbed by presents. It is worthwhile that children learn the difference for their future understanding of true happiness.
  • Consider including grandparents, relatives, godparents, close friends for a short moment through screen time (face time, WhatsApp, messenger, etc.) maybe when the cake is brought. Often those who are dear to us do not live near by, but super appreciate these special moments to offer best wishes and see the birthday person.
  • Have your child take the time to thank people for the gifts they receive. Even better, get them to make and write thank you cards in appreciation for the time and thought others put into their special day. Children need to learn gratitude and not take things for granted.


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