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Birthdays? Meh.

July 2, 2010

I live in America, and Americans celebrate birthdays. There is often mega hoopla, as I like to say. And in my experience it is hardly ever questioned. But I know quite a few people who do not know their date of birth and even do not know how old they are. One of them is my brother-in-law. He’s from a country where the remembrance of birthdays isn’t important; they have other occasions they celebrate. It’s quite something for a westerner to contemplate not knowing one’s age or birthday; many of us feel that it is part of our identity. Yet it means almost nothing to someone else.

Dude and I haven’t celebrated our respective birthdays for a few years now. I make some good food and that’s about it. We did do small parties, just family, with our first daughter. When our second daughter was born we decided that rather than start this whole birthday cycle all over again – we were going to opt out.  We discussed it with her, then nearly 7, and while she wasn’t overjoyed, she understood the points we laid out for her and she knows that we do celebrate both Eids rather vigorously (with gifts).

Why? Well, this was in line with how we felt about birthdays previously. When our oldest was a baby we had already decided not to send her to other children’s extravagant birthday parties because, especially for girls, they were getting bigger and bigger. It wasn’t uncommon at all to hear of parents spending several thousands on their teenager’s birthday party. And what sort of broke my grim little heart were other, less financially fortunate children being mocked for not having the money either to have a birthday party like that, or to give the kind of expensive gifts that were expected. It’s hard to even verbalize how uncomfortable that makes me on so many levels. I’ll just say that I feel a birthday celebration should be about people taking some time to be happy someone they love was even born at all. It’s not about presents, not about getting to do whatever you want that day, not about out-glamming everyone else around.

Our faith played the largest role in our decision. There are many in Islam who say birthdays are haram; I’m not comfortable going that far, and I’m not the haram police. It seems to me that it can enter the realm of idolizing, albeit just for one day. Strangely, what seems to bother people the most about our decision is the lack of presents. Really, is that what matters? I mean, I’d like to think that the moments that stick in my girlies’ heads now and when they are older are made up not of wrapping paper and plastic, but instead the bits of joy in the time we spent together. Stuff is just stuff – and our decision to cut out the gift-giving part of birthdays falls in with our increasing interest in minimalism. I can’t reconcile myself to a surplus of new possessions when my Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions were so bereft of items to eat or sell for food that they routinely went around with rocks tied to their stomachs to allay the hunger pangs. I am a soft, modern, wimp. Yes I am. The least I can do is try harder in the way I feel is best.

So, what actually happens on the girls’ birthdays? First, a story. A few years ago, before we decided to stop birthdays, I got a book out at the library for my oldest called Zen Shorts. In it, Stillwater, a panda, says that he gives his friends gifts on his own birthday as a show of appreciation that he was born and got to know them. Amazing. It reminded me so greatly of what the founder of our masjid had said about birthdays: “Make a big meal for everyone on your birthday.” Lovely advice, and one that I intend to put into practice soon with my biggest girly – who is looking forward to cooking dinner with mom on her birthday this month.

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149 Comments leave one →
  1. Raul permalink
    July 2, 2010 3:24 pm

    Screw that…I want my gifts!! Why does the second child always get screwed…I mean honestly…what did we do wrong? It’s hard enough that everything we do has already been done by our older brother or sister and now people are taking away our birthdays!!! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!! lol…jk…it is sad that birthdays sometimes get out of hand. But, we all like to feel special for just one day, it doesn’t mean we need the biggest and best gifts, it just means we are appreciated. Yes, we should do our best to make everyone feel appreciated every single day, but to have your own day to say…I am here and I am still alive…I made it through another year! That’s a big deal. I appreciate my mom for bringing me into this world, but come on, she already has a birthday and mother’s day 🙂

    I do see your point though 🙂

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 2, 2010 4:22 pm

      You couldnt have said it better!!

      http://sylviangirl.wordpress.com/

    • July 6, 2010 12:41 pm

      Well, with many families it’s the other way around! The first-born gets to eat all the **** (sorry for foul-mouthing, but I couldn’t find a better word), the parents make all the mistakes with the first-born and then when the second one comes around, well they have learned more and the second child can just waltz through a good life!!

      [edited by admin – no bad language please]

      • July 6, 2010 9:01 pm

        I sort of agree. I was the second-born and I feel like I got way more spoiled than my older brother- I think they let some things go with the younger kids

  2. July 2, 2010 3:45 pm

    I get tired of people having parties for EVERYTHING! One, sixteen, twenty-one, thirty, forty, etc. That seems fair.

    • July 2, 2010 4:08 pm

      I agree! Celebrate major milestones! If you want to show your appreciation to someone, get them a gift on a day where its NOT expected! That would make them so much happier than if you got them a bunch of… crap at an expected time. Not to mention if you wanna buy something expensive you don’t have to rush and try to save up by a certain deadline!

      BUT i DO feel High school graduation is a good occasion too. Personally I didn’t want a party but MANY kids HATE school, and to throw an awesome party as a job well done for having an average of good grades overall(of course if they got sick or whatever it obviously shouldn’t count against them! thats just mean, they cant help it if they need to, say get surgery!) but yeah. To endure something you hate for 12 years SHOULD have a reward other than a looonngggg boring ceremony and a handshake with a piece of paper.

  3. July 2, 2010 3:52 pm

    I think birthdays are defiantly a cause for celebration, but I believe the best part of celebration is who you celebrate with! This year I made reservations at my favorite restaurant and invited all of my friends and family. It was a great turn out and some brought gifts (which was really nice) but really I just wanted to have time with my friends and celebrate making it through another year through trials and tribulations. I don’t think it was so much a celebration of me but just an excuse for a reunion.

  4. July 2, 2010 3:59 pm

    You know what, I say good for you and your husband making this decision. Not only did you explain it to your daughters, but you explained your reasons (which I agree with completely) here. If anyone has anything to say then they just dont understand where you are coming from. I dont think it’s fair when people meddle in with their opinions on issues such as these. It is not as if you are going and sharing with them your opinion and how they should not celebrate birthdays.

    Great post. Thank you.

    • July 3, 2010 3:23 am

      Agreed: it’s not about NOT celebrating a birthday, it’s about everything else you mention here. And I also agree that there’s nothing inherently better about the way other cultures may recognize or not recognize a person’s day of birth, it’s simply a way of making comparisons that lead to thoughtful contemplation and examination of our own customs, habits, and values, which often go unexamined. In Germany, the celebration of a birthday does involve a party, but the gifts are all given by the host to his/her guests, not vice-versa, in appreciation for the many years of friendship. Again, I’m not saying this is better or worse than our way of doing it, but being a part of that has helped me to see things differently, and make my own decisions about how I want to celebrate — which is to be thankful (and show my thanks) for every year I’ve had, and every friend who has supported me through those years, not to demand recognition in the way of gifts for my accomplishment of having made it through another year. To each his own, but for me personally, this is both a contemplative and fun-filled way to celebrate my life.

    • July 4, 2010 8:17 am

      I also agree with this! Having explained it to your kids and them understanding is the best choice. I disagree with people who celebrate everything too.

      I’m 23 now and never had a birthday party. Almost had one at 18, but my mom got sick and I didn’t want for her to strain herself.

      We do exchange gifts, but they were never big expensive ones, and to make it more special, lately they’re homemade/handmade gifts which have a totally different value than something store-bought!

    • July 6, 2010 5:15 am

      Just wanted to say that it’s not really meddling when others express their (possibly differing) opinions. When you publicly post something you are inviting others’ input, so, it’s not meddling. I’ve no opinion about the celebration of birthdays; do what you want. The only time I would care is if someone were to try to dictate to others about how to deal with birthdays (which clearly is NOT the case here).

      Peace

  5. bradenbost permalink
    July 2, 2010 4:08 pm

    I can’t really buy into the spreading, progressive American mindset of “if some other culture does something radically different than what we do, then we must be confused or misguided somehow.” Truly, it is fascinating that some other cultures put so little importance on birthdays and age, but I really doubt that’s necessarily good. Especially within how OUR society is structured. And while I can agree that spending tons of money on kid’s parties is stupid and a growing problem, I don’t think that the celebration of birthdays in the first place is really the issue. I guess each parent must make the decisions that they think are right for their children (personal example: my wife was not allowed to watch or participate in or play anything that had or referred to “magic;” this included shows like the Gummi Bears and games like The Legend of Zelda), but I’ve seen that such extreme exclusions and restrictions rarely shape the kid as desired and instead get them itching to be on their own someday.

    • Allumer permalink
      July 2, 2010 4:29 pm

      I think you misunderstand me. My BIL’s culture had no bearing on our decision either way, the outcome would have been the same. They circumcise their boys at 8, ride camels in the city, and use the bathroom into holes in little huts too. I’m, uh, not advocating any of those things, though they be mighty interesting. It merely served as a interesting juxtaposition of cultures. And I agree to an extent, that I’m not sure what they do in other cultures is necessarily better, though I believe people everywhere can learn from each other. One of our primary desires was to take the consumerism out of birthdays, and so we did.

  6. Zpurpleify permalink
    July 2, 2010 4:10 pm

    One of my colleagues son turned 30 and she was saying he should be giving her flowers as she brought him into this world – I kinda liked the idea…I do agree that birthdays are getting out of hand these days. At the school that I taught at previously, I remember a 10 year old having a Limo and all sorts for her 10th birthday, I wondered to yslef what would happen on her 18th! I am not big on lavish things. I like to spend timewith the family and as I share my birthday with my mum I like to spend the day with her when possible.

  7. July 2, 2010 4:13 pm

    If we got rid of birthdays, bars wouldn’t make as much money! 21 shots! And if bars don’t make money, how can we infuse the economy? 🙂
    http://lawyergal.wordpress.com/

  8. squirrelsloveacorns permalink
    July 2, 2010 4:17 pm

    Birthdays are fun, I’m actually going to a party today for a friend turning 22.

    The reason they are fun is because you are reminding someone they are getting old in a fun way.

    When they happen for you, it’s nice because you have made it through one more year of your life. I enjoy them but it isn’t the highlight of my year

  9. July 2, 2010 4:25 pm

    Awesome post! I totally agree even if I haven’t followed this plan yet. My son just celebrated his first birthday and yes, I made a big hoopla about it. It was his first. But, I don’t want him to grow up focused on material things either. In my family, we make a big deal of spending time together as a family on birthdays. We spend very little money on gifts but instead choose to have a home cooked dinner and just hang out. We all come together in celebration of the birth of our family member. No gifts required.

    I do love the idea of giving others gifts for your own birthday. In fact, I always give my mother flowers on my birthday as an appreciation of her giving birth to me. 🙂

  10. July 2, 2010 4:30 pm

    I’ll stay with those gifts and b days party lol.

  11. July 2, 2010 4:45 pm

    What a beautiful cake! I stopped “celebrating” my birthday a few years ago. To me, one’s birthday should be the one day where one can do whatever one wishes (as long as it’s still legal). Unseen forces ought to conspire to grant one 24 hours of serenity and contentment. Nothing goes wrong, motorists all behave courteously and rationally.

    Alas, it’s not always the case.

  12. July 2, 2010 4:46 pm

    Part of your post reminds me of why having kids today must be SO hard with the rampant consumerism and competitiveness that kids face. Oy.

    Another part of it reminds me of how great birthdays are in the sense that we should be happy that our loved ones are around and that they are here to begin with! That’s what its all about to me and why I always choose to be around the closest of friends and family on my b-day.

    My boyfriend has a theory that we make such a big deal out of birthdays because back in the day, mortality was much more of an issue – hey, we may not be around next year s0 let’s celebrate!! Dunno if it’s true but it makes sense. In Greece birthdays have not been a big deal until recently, and still aren’t for some. They have name days because most of their names come from Saints, who are each assigned their own special day to be worshiped, essentially. Anyway, I think that’s kind of cool.

  13. July 2, 2010 4:58 pm

    I wouldn’t take birthdays away from my children simply because I celebrate their birth with them. While their journey into this world on that date was traumatizing for them, it was equally painful and disturbing for me as well, so hell yeah I’m going to party.

    Maybe remove silly holidays like Christmas, Easter and Halloween from children before taking away a milestone day specifically intended for them. Eliminate chips, sugar, McDonalds, Chuck E. Cheese, trans fats, Lady Ga Ga and other unhealthy items from your child’s life before you take away your birthday.

    I see where you’re trying to fight the power but sometimes it’s okay put our weapons down and over indulge in monetary items and silly traditions. Some of the sweetest childhood memories have birthday parties in the back drop. We only live once.

    • Letty Cruz permalink
      July 6, 2010 6:13 am

      Good points; I’d tone down those major consumerist holidays first though I looove All Hallow’s Eve, but especially Dia De Los Muertos, which follows closely after and is part of my family’s cutlural heritage.

  14. July 2, 2010 4:58 pm

    I appreciate some of your ideas here. In Panama we have quinceaños parties, and some of the girls with more wealth go on huge ocean cruises with their friends or they have a super extravagant party at some five-star hotel. One of my students is the sweetest person imaginable, and her 15th pictures (similar to how the U.S. feels about graduation pictures) were from her own digital camera and turned out a little fuzzy. Another girl waltzed into school with her professional model-like photos and showing her new diamond ring (another tradition), and I felt so bad for the other student who had her 15 years around the same day. It’s a bit much. However, I do celebrate my daughter’s birthday because I enjoy remembering the day that she was born. I keep a baby book of her pictures and I play her some videos of herself already. I want her to know how much we loved her from the very beginning and how much we will continue to love her as she grows.

    I like the idea of giving your friends gifts on your birthday. For my birthday, I had to work. I teach English classes, so I wanted to take my birthday cake to my English class to share with them. My husband was like, “Why?” because it would have cost around $30 for the cake and supplies, etc., and I felt “Why not?” I just wanted to be able to celebrate my birthday with someone–especially since my family is in the U.S. and I wouldn’t even be able to stay at home to celebrate my birthday. I thought it would be a good learning opportunity for my English students. I think that we should be able to share in the joy of the occasion and not just have the emphasis be about us, but about loving life. I’ll be turning 30, and I would rather focus on the positive aspects of my life and the world around me than focus on myself and my growing age. But that’s just me.

  15. July 2, 2010 5:11 pm

    >”Make a big meal for everyone on your birthday.”

    I remember once when my cousin was about 16, he made a big Deal about everyone on his birthday – he made sure everyone knew he didn’t want presents, and then he went out and bought gifts for everyone else. Yeah, so that misses your point about out-glamming everyone, but for a guy who’d spent his life getting gifts, it was the only way he knew to say – “It’s not about ME.” Which was a neat beginning.

    Me? I was right there with you up to the not-getting-to-do-anything-you-want part. I could do without the gifts, but I do love the part about doing anything I want on my birthday.

  16. July 2, 2010 5:17 pm

    While I agree with you that some people do spend a lot on birthdays, I don’t really agree you with about not sending your child to other people’s parties. Perhaps you don’t want to spend money for the person, but I find that a cute homemade card is totally acceptable because really it’s about the thought. If your daughter’s friend invited her to their party, then obviously that means they want to be friends. Friends are will to accept each other and it doesn’t matter what you give them, because showing you care is good enough.

    When I was a child my parents didn’t let me go to birthday parties either, and, oh, number of childish fights I got in with my friends when I said I couldn’t make it…. They would think I didn’t care about them or something silly like that. It also really hinders on a child’s social life. Birthday parties are completely different from playdates, because you’re exposed to more children (instead of just 1 or 2), some you may or may not like, outside of a school setting.

  17. July 2, 2010 5:41 pm

    My parents never celebrated my birthdays when I was growing up (Because of religious reasons) and I have to say that it was a bad decision on their part. It’s not the fact that I didn’t get presents or get to do whatever I wanted for that day, it’s the fact that I was the weird girl in school that didn’t celebrate her birthday. My parents used to argue and say that not celebrating my birthday made me an individual in my school, but ultimately it just alienated me from people.

    I agree that parents spend way too much money on birthday parties for their kids but just recognizing your child’s birthday and giving them even the smallest present might make them feel just a little bit more normal.

  18. midipour permalink
    July 2, 2010 5:46 pm

    I agree with you that Birthdays are misleading and narcissistic, but gift giving earned by hard work is a valuable lesson you could probably teach your child at an early age. It shows effort and discipline grants you privilege and responsibility where none taken returns none given. Just a note. (: Enjoyed the blog!

  19. July 2, 2010 5:51 pm

    Parties have gotten out of control. I think YOU should do what you think is right for your family! If more people did what they felt was RIGHT without hurting others it would be a better world.

    evelyngarone.worldpress.com

  20. July 2, 2010 5:51 pm

    The timing of this was perfect for me. It’s my birthday today, and the last several years I have been getting more and more non-plussed about my birthday. I feel a lot less guilty about that now. Last year, I began a tradition of giving service on or around my birthday: cooking a meal for others. I love it. Coolest part of my birthday. I’m not sure I could completely forego birthdays for my children, but I expect I’ll find out one day.

  21. July 2, 2010 6:13 pm

    Great post. I think sometimes Americans forget that not everyone celebrates birthdays the way we do. Thank you for sharing a glimpse at your traditions.

  22. July 2, 2010 6:40 pm

    So true, and so eloquently put. Some cousins of mine have birthday parties EVERY YEAR for each of their 4 children. The same cousins and 4 children whom I only see at family Christmas gatherings, and usually only long enough for presents to be opened and food to be consumed. It’s ridiculous. Am going to look this book up “Zen shorts” and purchase it for my nieces and nephew. I love the idea of teaching the kids to celebrate in a different way.
    More than that, I love the idea of not focusing so much on how old we are. It’s about how old we feel, right? Thanks so much for the post.

  23. fjafjan permalink
    July 2, 2010 6:48 pm

    I think birthdays are a nice excuse to tell the people you care about you do, it’s easy to say you should do so every day, but there is something to be said for ceremony. I think many people would be better off if they realized it was something you celebrate because you want to, and not get too stressed out about it.

    Birthdays are nice

  24. Aari permalink
    July 2, 2010 7:26 pm

    Right point. As we live temporarily far from home, we were first a bit concerned of having our daughters 5th birthday and no friends or family coming. Then I found a very sobering website http://www.birthdayswithoutpressure.org and was assured that there is no need for big party or anything – and they were right, we had a marvellous day celebrating her birthday only among ourselves!

    • Allumer permalink
      July 2, 2010 8:58 pm

      What a great link, Aari, thanks so much for posting it!

  25. July 2, 2010 7:34 pm

    I love birthdays! Recently I attended a friends birthday and she threw a really nice party for herself. A couple of days later, she told me she felt like it was her wedding day! Birthdays are important, because that is the one day you feel extra loved and appreciated. Yes, you should always feel this way, but in a society where interactions are less personal and our lives are so busy, it’s good to have a “me” day. In many cultures, the kids tell their parents “thank you” and give them a present for bringing them into this world. I think that is a great tradition and should be emphasized to all, as it teaches gratitude. However, young children also need to fit in with the rest of society so they don’t have psychological issues growing up. I have never had a sweet sixteen, graduation party, or any of those other big parties for myself growing up. Though, I have always had some sort of celebration with cake and a present.

  26. blairpet permalink
    July 2, 2010 7:37 pm

    So this was touching. Birthdays are tricky I think because initially they celebrate your achievements and then as you get older, they can be reminders of all the things you have to accomplish. A big meal though is always a cause for celebration. http://degreesof.wordpress.com

  27. Mahfooz Hasan permalink
    July 2, 2010 7:53 pm

    I haven’t celebrated birthdays in a long while, and I’m only 20 at the moment. I usually just go out for dinner with a few friends but thats about it. I tell them not to be trouble themselves with getting presents, it being with your friends and having a good time on a “special” day that really matters to me.

  28. July 2, 2010 8:10 pm

    Nice post due to pink followers ,which are very atractive. birthday is day which can’t forget but your brother in law forget it amazing. Birth should be remember and celebrate ,It tell us how time you have spent and what are your acchivements. It also memorised that the time is passing so quickly day by day ,try to do some thing better for your self .Some time we miss some people in this …………. thanks

  29. July 2, 2010 9:01 pm

    I read this romance book dated several, several years ago. The story was about a woman from a rich household who was both physically and emotionally abused. She found her prince moved in with his sisters. No one knew her birthday, and on her birthday, she made them breakfast and had a present waiting for them at each plate.

    I love that idea. But I also love the idea of a bunch of gifts waiting for me or money in the mail from caring relatives. I’m in my mid-thirties and I still love a birthday party. For one day, it’s special for me. I like the best of both worlds.

    I’ve never had a whole lot of money….ever. While I disagree with some of your blog, I do agree with one point—there is a narcissitic viewpoint associated with birthdays sometimes, like what you said about people spending thousands upon thousands for one birthday. I’m thinking paper cups, party favor bags, matching plates, crepe paper and a pretty cake for a girl or boy, not a massive debutante party…lol. Birthdays are for celebrating life.

    I’m the same way about Christmas though in your attitude. I love Christmas, but time after time all I hear from people is how they can outdo last Christmas with bigger and better gifts. It’s not about the gift. The gifts are a bonus, but not the focus. I’m glad our economy is bad because it has brought people down to be real again.

  30. July 2, 2010 9:55 pm

    I loved this post.

    I’ve disliked birthdays since I can remember. In fact, I dislike any official celebration on specific days.

    I never tell the people I meet when my birthday is, but they always end up asking after one year of celebrations and none of them for me.

    On my birthday I leave home soon and return late, so I don’t have to recieve phone calls from relatives I never talk to. And it’s even worse when they give you presents. I don’t usually show happiness even if I like a present. It was really hard for me pretending to be happy to make the grown-ups feel good (especially when I WAS happy, but they couldn’t see it). It’s the same on Christmas, when you recieve gifts of people you see once a year (that day).

    But I love when someone gives me something on a “normal” day, because that is a true gift and they turn the day into a special one.

    I spend my last two birthdays away from home and my people. I went out, made some new friends and partied with them instead. Those were really funny birthdays and I didn’t have to worry about looking happy or thanking all the time.

    • July 3, 2010 9:49 am

      Birthdays, parties and celebrations aren’t part of my memories. Just last year, I actually felt embarrassed when the birthday song was sung, I guess I just have no idea how to react. And no, I do not feel good that day, rather I felt out of the place. The people just do not understand how birthdays have no significance in my life and I felt obligated to wear that smile for the day.

      This year, I actually arrange quite a number of things that day, just so that I will return home late. My day will start from 6am, and ends at 11pm. And one of those things is social service. The true happiness, new friends and satisfactions, I would say. (:

      And yes, I do agree that a gift on a normal day really makes that day a special one, one that I most probably won’t shy away.

      Tacie.

  31. July 2, 2010 9:59 pm

    Different cultures do different things. There isn’t a right or wrong answer.
    I think you yourself are on the fence as when you explained to your 6 year old that you wouldn’t be celebrating birthdays any longer she was less then overjoyed.
    Why should she be, unless she was getting mixed messages from you.
    Children only know what they are taught. If you present your faith with enthusiasm and surety of truth the kids fall into line at this tender age. There is nothing to feel sad about just because she doesn’t celebrate her own birthday. Get her a special item of clothing or school supply during the year just because she is a beautiful person and deserves to have something special.
    My kids were raised in private parochial schools. At the beginning of easch year notices went out that said all birthdays would be celebrated in school.
    Parents were told which bakery to go to for purchase of cupcakes only. No other party supplies were allowed.
    Having 6 children it was a big relief not to have to make parties for my kids but we always bought them something special from mommy and daddy.
    Today my “kids” mostly grown are generous, tithing,happy adults who never fail to bring me a box of Godiva chocklates on my birthday,which of course I am happy to share with them.

    • Allumer permalink
      July 2, 2010 11:20 pm

      I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer either – just what is good for one’s own family. That being said, I’m sorry I gave the impression of being on the fence, we most definitely were not on the fence about it, nor was she getting any mixed messages from us. She wasn’t upset in the least, just a little pensive at the thought of gifts deferred to another time. I don’t seriously expect her to clap her hands and squeal over the idea of less presents, no matter how much she believes what we are doing is right. I buy and make her gifts all year, we’re not depriving our children!

      • July 3, 2010 5:43 am

        Never thought you were. I hope my post didn’t portray that I was thinking that. I may not agree with you, but I do agree with the underlying thought. It should never be about how many gifts.

  32. July 2, 2010 10:03 pm

    Hi. I hear what you are saying here. I haven’t enjoyed my birthday for the past 14 years or so because I always feel like I ‘should’ be doing something big as our society lays it out for us. Truth be told, I like low key events… if any at all. Just a way for my soul to say to my human body, “You are here, I am glad you are here… you are a gift (like everyone else)” and I like to reflect on my evolution on this journey called life…My birthday is on Thursday… and you know what? I don’t feel like I should do anything other than treat myself to self-honoring activities such as a healthy meal and maybe a good laugh with a few friends. 🙂

  33. July 2, 2010 10:06 pm

    This is wonderful! I love the idea. You have inspired me–Thank you!

  34. July 2, 2010 10:32 pm

    These comments are really interesting – so many thoughts!

    Growing up, birthdays were not a big deal in my house – we counted our age by them. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t understand that all the things that were different about my life compared to my peers was because we were Muslim. Like an earlier commenter, I never went to birthday parties either as a child or as a teenager. As an adult, I found that birthdays were synonymous with pub-crawls and getting drunk out of your mind. Clearly, I wasn’t going to go that way, you know, because that would have been waaay haram.

    Like the Captain’s family, the ages of many members of my family are lost or unknown, or measured in some way that’s now been forgotten, or remembered by people who have now passed away (rahimahumullah) – my dad’s included. We’ve never really known exactly how old he was, and he has an ‘official’ DOB which appears on his passports and other documents, but his true age he can only guess.

    My parents have always joked that if it’s YOUR birthday, YOU are the one who should be giving the gifts – so it’s always been a fairly natural idea to me. We don’t celebrate birthdays either – as you mentioned, it’s not part of the Sunnah. The most Muhammad (saas) himself did was to fast on that day. All of my siblings and I have Summer birthdays, clustered very close together, so what we do do is that we pick an arbitrary day somewhere in the middle, and we cook special food. In the past, my mother used to make it, but now we’re all grown up we try to ban her from the kitchen while we make lots of eatables and eat a lot while we make it and then we enjoy eating more altogether. It’s nice. But it’s no big deal – a birthday’s just a birthday.

    And another thing! I happened to share my birthday with a very dear friend, and I guess that was what made it special for a bit – now that we’re no longer in touch, it’s gone back to being ‘yeah, whatever’. And also a good day for everyone to perfect their expressions of horror when they go ‘you’re HOW old and still SADLY SINGLE???? Now if you weren’t so fussy and modern boss boss boss’ Etc.

    I used to work with a lovely lady – and if context helps, she was deeply atheist – who was regularly having ‘unbirthdays’ (a la Alice in Wonderland): you only have ONE birthday a year, but EVERY day can be an UNbirthday. On her unbirthdays, she would bring special cakes, biscuits, and oter dainties in to share with everyone. I always think of her – she taught me a great deal about how to be a genuinely nice person.

  35. sniedzuk permalink
    July 2, 2010 10:46 pm

    you, know! i don’t celebrate my own birthay like long time. well. now only in family. we are 5 in family and that’s all. i don’t like that all big parties. with ‘friends’. so for others it’s just birthday, where you can party, however do i need that.[?][!]’ now i’am 17. my 18 i won’t celebrate. so. For others. 18 is like .Wow. I’m gona drunk with my frieds, will be loud party and i can buy anything i want. presents, presents, presents So?[!] That is another birthday one year less for me and i’m gona drunk to get it more less. And i don’t now whay i have to celebrate it like that. i’m getting older. and closer to my death. and. i don’t celebrate it . but my mom gave me live in this day. so to my parents and sister and brother i need a little bit celebrate. thay have to be happy that i’m an 1 year older.,./.,./.,./.

  36. July 2, 2010 11:07 pm

    I can totally see where you are coming from. Birthdays are just a day, just like any other day. Why is it that we are celebrating one’s ability to navigate the birth canal? It’s no more arbitrary than having a day to commemorate one’s first words, one’s first excretion of fecal matter.
    ~~~
    Nonetheless, people are free to celebrate the days they want and I am much more inclined to get behind someone supporting the celebration of birthdays than the celebration of “Freedom Fighters.”

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  37. July 2, 2010 11:45 pm

    My Dear,

    Birthday is time for celebration! Never ever miss such wonderful moments! I always prepared cake and/or chocolates to celebrate my daughter! There are always welcomed.

    When my daughter was a little girl, less than 5 y.o., she wanted to celebrate me and you know what she did? She make a drawing and put it on my library… I never forget her gift that was coming from her soul!

    I always tried to celebrate her birthday even if it was a period from my life, being far away, I only sent to her a SMS, early in the morning saying: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

    Once, for her birthday, I bought a gift book with short poems called “How to remember about your parent when he/she is far away!” On my next anniversary she bought for me the similar book called: ” How I am remembering my parent!” Simply and sincerely..

    I was always making her a gift on each Sunday, over the spring, summer or autumn, spent a few hours in a park that is a little far away from my home. It was my weekly gift to her. It was our weekly recreational celebration party.

    Suddenly, a few years ago, I decided to support my daughter in learning English and I bought nice books with small stories, all in English. It was my gift for my daughter that was the best from her class. And then, after a while, my daughter pushed me to our park, on our regular weekly walk to an area covered with flowers and just told me from top to bottom, like a theater play, the story Cinderella. She was 7 y.o. I was surprised how she remembered everything, used the correct form of tenses, etc. You know, it was her gift for me, for my time spent with her in park, like a thank you note for the beautiful books that she received.

    I told you all these stories because birthdays and celebrations must go together, but really depend on us how to deal with them. I tried small and simply celebrations and I saw the beauty that was coming from them.

    Wish you all the best and keep in touch about birthdays!
    By the way, when is your birthday?

  38. leylash permalink
    July 3, 2010 1:31 am

    A lot of people don’t celebrate birthdays. It’s your choice, and you have some good reasoning behind making it.
    Birthdays don’t have to be about the presents and money and all that. They could be fairly simple, nothing extravagant. In my family (and I have a huge family) we use them as an excuse for family time. Usually everyone is all over the place, busy and working and studying and yadda yadda, but everyone knows that the day of someones birthday is family time. We get together and spend time with each other, just sitting around the table chewing on nuts and seeds and drinking tea and talking and catching up, nothing too big. I grew up with these gatherings, and I can’t imagine when I would ever see all my family together like that, on a happy occasion, if it weren’t for these birthdays.
    =)

  39. July 3, 2010 2:34 am

    Wow, I was floored by the number of comments to this post.

    Birthdays were always a meh topic in my house – I mean, we usually did something, but I remember feeling kind of left out as a kid because after a certain age we didn’t really do huge parties. Plus my birthday is so close to Christmas that it’s not like anyone my age could do anything anyway – they were all out on holiday break. So it was usually my mom’s friends, if anyone, and some of my family. But as I got older it started to matter less and less, and now it’s almost just another day.

    Mom used to tell stories of how when they were little (she had 9 brothers and sisters and grew up on a farm in Georgia) my grandmother would bake them whatever kind of birthday cake they wanted, and that was their present. When I was a kid I was secretly a little put off by that, but now I think it’s the perfect approach to birthdays. The older I get the less materialist I am. But then again, I don’t have kids and probably won’t anytime soon. I still wouldn’t want my kids to be raised to be as materialist as is popular in mainstream American culture…I’ve even seen some Muslims spending upwards of $1000 on Eid gifts (mostly small toys ~ I could understand if it were a computer or something) for their kids, who are really too young to appreciate it and then the kids come to expect that kind of materialism on a regular basis. If I ever have children, I want to raise them to have enough and appreciate it, not have so much that they don’t appreciate anything.

    I love other people’s birthdays because it gives me the opportunity to tell them how happy I am that they were born and what awesomeness they’ve brought into my life, in a legit way (I’m fond of saying this to people but when you say it out of the blue sometimes they think you’re just weird). But I also am a forgetful person and I forget birthdays SO often…so sometimes I wish there wasn’t such an expectation of having to remember birthdays in our culture.

    Wa’salaam!

  40. July 3, 2010 2:47 am

    วันเกิดย่อมสำคัญเสมอ การอ้างถึงวันเกิดย่อมดีที่สุด

  41. July 3, 2010 3:00 am

    Very well said 🙂

  42. pradini permalink
    July 3, 2010 3:06 am

    totally agree :)! salam

  43. July 3, 2010 4:19 am

    I think birthday isnot too important, the very important thing is, how we live our life in good ways and be the best for people around us especially for family…

    http://sweetlovelylife.wordpress.com

  44. July 3, 2010 6:22 am

    while i agree that we sometimes over do birthday parties… i don’t think the celebrating of birth can ever be over done…its when you came into this world to change it… be it small or great… you make a difference in this world and i think birthdays remind us we have a purpose on earth

    to not know when you are born is crazy to me…

    here are 2 times you should definetly know…

    the day you were born…and the day you died…

    hope
    hopelesslycrushingonyou.wordpress.com

  45. Songbird permalink
    July 3, 2010 7:46 am

    Birthdays I think are so over-blown these days- I mean naturally not the birthday itself but the hoopla surrounding it- my friends are turning 40 fast and furious all around me and the celebrations seem to require more and more extravagant trips overseas, parties etc. And when you tell someone I do not WANT a fuss- everyone looks at you like you have just lost your marbles… I have found them to be very stressful- more than enjoyable- surely, this is not the way it was meant to be….?

  46. July 3, 2010 9:27 am

    Good thought, although I am one of those who believe in enjoying to the fullest on their one special day. For some people, celebration really doesn’t need to have reasons. 🙂

    And about keeping kids away from such parties so that they don’t develop and inferiority complex (which is pretty obvious), yes, somewhere I do agree with your idea. But then it makes me think, how far can one go in shielding kids away from such harsh realities of life? How far will you prevent them from socialization just to protect them from “bad” influence? They might be “young” for this, but somewhere, they have to be made to understand the difference between right and wrong. And the fact as well, that wrong does exist.

    • Allumer permalink
      July 3, 2010 11:27 am

      We don’t keep them away from birthday parties because we fear an inferiority complex, we keep them away from extravagant parties because it seems like it’s all about virtually worshiping the child. We have a pretty strict policy of letting our children (within reason and age appropriately) see the harsh realities of life, whether it’s death, poverty, mental illness etc. I would never shield my child from someone who had more than us monetarily because we don’t – that’s just life, and kids have to grow up dealing with that.

  47. rheatan permalink
    July 3, 2010 2:40 pm

    I totally agree!! I suppose it’s subjective, but I grew up loathing birthday parties and told my parents not to organise any more for me. We now celebrate with a cake at home every year, and some years go out to dinner with a few close relatives.

    My sister is almost 21, and her friends are celebrating in hotel function rooms or on yachts and everyone dresses up. Sure it looks nice on facebook, but it all seems like it’s just ‘for show’.

    I am terrified of the whole practice of gift exchange and I get stressed when I receive gifts. As The Big Bang Theory put it very nicely, ‘ the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.’ and ‘The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me’

  48. July 3, 2010 3:38 pm

    Congrats on being featured! And Great article! You make some very nice points. This year was one of the first days my birthday fell during the school calender. Normally its during the Easter break, or else during a weekend. When all my friends found this out they started planning a huge party, because I had never had one. I REALLY didn’t like this. In the past all my friends would be away during my birthday, so I never had a party with them. A home backed cake a nice meal and good company with family was all I ever had. A few gifts, maybe. But it was the cards I cared for more. I’ve kept every card I’ve ever recieved.

    My friends didn’t understand this. I was fortunate enough to have the day of my brithday be on field day, a day the school would spend at the arena participating in various sporting events. This year we didn’t have to, as we didn’t all take P.E. as a class. This was perfect for me. We could bring juice, cups, my twin and I would bring some chips and some cookies, and our friends and us could celebrate the day with some good conversation and relaxation. We could sit in the bleachers with our ipods and just enjoy eachother’s company. Thats all I wanted to celebrate. Was that too much to ask?

    Apparently so, as the weekend before this, about 10 of us had gotten together to go on an outing to the park to do some observational drawing and some photography for our art courses. I thought this would just be us having some fun and more good company. WRONG! Three of them went behind my back and bought me a little gift, a basket of bathsalts and soaps and such. Dont get me wrong, I appreciated them and they were very nice and all… but when you think about it that only one of the three that had done this was actually a good friend of mine, and the one who’s idea it was was a girl I don’t trust so much and haven’t had a real friendship with for two years (we just act civil, we get along but there isnt really trust or anything there)… and the fact that my twin still went home empty handed even though being just as good a friend with this girl… (only my name on the card) I felt very… ill at ease. Something was wrong. Why would they suddenly want to show me any appreciation… or anything? It was fishy, and I didnt appreciate it, especially since my twin, the more popular and generally well liked went home empty handed, and the main girl kept rubbing it in everyone else’s face, including mine, that she had gotten me a present, especially when I had asked for them to do nothing…. it didn’t feel right or sincere. Am I right or am I over analyzing it and over reacting?

  49. July 3, 2010 4:03 pm

    Mom had always discouraged me to celebrate birthdays:

    1) She had wanted me to realize the reality before “celebrating”
    2) She wanted me to grow up, earn; and then start spending. She always said that friends happen only after childhood. And that if any, I should celebrate with them.

    Incase that seems very harsh, please visit my Biopic Log- https://oliviasbiopiclog.wordpress.com/ and then AS I AM..

    I wish to add that she may have been by far the strictest woman on earth; she was not all wrong.

    Olivia

  50. zevera1 permalink
    July 3, 2010 4:21 pm

    i think birthday is really important and most important thing is how to celebrate this special day. i do celebrate my birthday and really feel good with my friends and family members on this occasion. \

  51. Catcher A. permalink
    July 3, 2010 4:40 pm

    I’ve spent hours reading the archives! and I love it! 😀 😀

    Permission to link, yes?

    • July 4, 2010 10:51 am

      Hey Catcher – thank you! Of course you can link : )

  52. July 3, 2010 5:00 pm

    thats a good look on birthdays
    me myself believe that age isn’t anything but a number
    its crazy how much money people spend on birthdays
    i think that we should only celebrate the 1st,16th,and 50th birthday

  53. Barry Mañana permalink
    July 3, 2010 5:03 pm

    As we are conceived in pleasure and born in pain, wouldn’t it be better if celebrated the former than the latter?

  54. Carol Ann Karr permalink
    July 3, 2010 5:25 pm

    There aren’t enough Birthday’s. The Queen agrees with me as she has Two. I send people un-Birthday cards meaning-it’s not your birthday but live it up like it was!! People should be treated like kings and Queens on their Birthdays the one day one can/should make them feel special.A Birthday is the one Day we can show people we care. SOooooooooooooooo’its your Birthday’ Happy Birthday to you…and you and you…. and many m.o.r.e.o.r.

  55. v7nn7 permalink
    July 3, 2010 7:09 pm

    good! very good!

  56. July 3, 2010 7:53 pm

    Hopefully I’m not being redundant, but I’d just like to say that I can understand opting out of the culture of throwing extravagant birthday parties.

    However, for me birthdays symbolize a reminder of mortality and a way to keep in mind that hey, I just lived another year! Another year full of ups and downs and joys and sorrows but another year full of experience!

    It’s kinda like New Years (with all the resolutions and whatnot) but on a more personal level.

    Plus it’s a great excuse to spend time with people you care about and reconnect with friends who may have drifted away slightly.

    All-in-all, I think you seem to be approaching it the right way. Not doing away with birthdays, but shifting the significance away from the material to the important intangible things.

  57. July 3, 2010 8:32 pm

    salam

    i do celebrate my bday..
    i think there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as u didn’t do it too much.
    good food is nice, and be grateful for the years you have..

    happy bday anyway

  58. July 3, 2010 9:05 pm

    This kind of luxury it deserves advanced societies

  59. goldenpast permalink
    July 3, 2010 9:43 pm

    I agree with pretty much everything you just talked about!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  60. July 3, 2010 9:45 pm

    Good for you for taking a stand. I completely sympathize. Nice homey get togethers with family seem okay, but these star-studded extravaganzas are wasteful and teach poor values. Self-esteem that needs to be bolstered by things isn’t going to serve these children well in the long run.

    Isn’t ironic though that the ads that popped up are for birthday parties, cruises et al. Can’t help that!

  61. July 3, 2010 10:22 pm

    Hmm. A very interesting point. I absolutely love the idea of the birthday person giving gifts of appreciation to their friends. That is indeed wonderful! Now I respect your beliefs 100% and forgive me for I don’t know a great deal about them but I think celebration in general is wonderful. It is a great, positive time for all peoples spirits to be at a high point. I personally see nothing wrong with celebration. It is a very intriguing perspective though. Thank you for your insight 😉

  62. Kelly Mahan Jaramillo permalink
    July 3, 2010 11:48 pm

    Wow, I agree with this on so many levels, to address all of the points would be redundant with the other comments.
    However, to share a similar birthday issue. I was never all that crazy about my birthday, as it falls in August, right in the middle of the month when it is so hot and miserable – who wants to do anything? I do not, and I do not want to feel obligated to go “do something” for my birthday.

    On my 40th birthday I received the news that my father had terminal cancer, with two weeks to live. This was a heartbreaking time, and ever since then, I associate my birthday with the completely unexpected information that someone I love is going to be alive for only 14 more days.

    When I met my husband’s family, one of their first questions was “when was my birthday?!” They are wonderful, lovely, giving, fun people, and naturally, they wanted to include me in the family by acknowledging my birthday. Our new neighbors wanted to know when it was, also.

    I was given rather odd looks when I stated that I did not like my birthday, and preferred to ignore it. I do not want to launch into the reasons, but even saying that one line is opening the door for more questions and curiosity. I briefly considered just saying a random date, but I knew I would forget it, and the ensuing birthday cards and well wishes would be confusing.

    I do not want to acknowledge my birthday. It is not a happy day. I am quite certain there are many other people out there who have had something heartbreaking or tragic happen on their birthday, and they, like me, just might not want to celebrate it. But most other people do not stop to think of that, they are so mired in this American “Birthday!! Celebrate!! Party!!!” mindset.

    Perhaps I will pretend to come from a country where people do not pay any attention to birthdays. 😉

    Until then, I just do my best to hide and wait it out.

    Thank you for your wonderful post. I do not feel like such a freak after reading it.

  63. July 4, 2010 1:53 am

    When reading this something my Greek tennis coach told me came to mind. In Greece, birthdays are celebrated, but are far less important than “namesake days”. He explained to me that in his home country, almost everyone is named after a specific saint and that each saint has a given holiday on which day all people with that name are celebrated. Seems a beautiful tradition that combines elements of their culture and religion…I almost wish we had something like it here!

  64. July 4, 2010 4:25 am

    This is a very enlightening post! Two thumbs up for your determination!

    I always face that problem.. not knowing what presents to give, and when I have decided on a present, I have to go through the process of convincing myself that the present is good enough, that it isn’t “cheap” in the eyes of the receiver… while this whole time, I believe that sincerity is the heart to everything and that it’s the thought that counts.

    What I believe in giving gifts is the whole give and take thing, somewhat like a token of appreciation of each other’s presence. It can be given at any time, of course. For me, birthdays are just one of the “chances” in a year for me to give this gift.

  65. July 4, 2010 6:17 am

    I enjoyed reading this post. I think that keeping the energy circulated is the best way, give and take.

  66. July 4, 2010 6:41 am

    Great post, and what timing! Today is my little one’s second birthday. I have given a lot of thought to this subject. I do not want birthdays to become very self-centered, but I do want them to be special. I want him to feel special too–just not in a self-centered way. I only bought him gifts this year because I wanted to get him a few things anyway, and the birthday was convenient. After reading your thoughts, though, I am encouraged to try harder next year to make his birthday meaningful in a less materialistic way.

    We did go to the coast as a family, and I do like the idea of doing fun families activities for birthdays. I’ve also thought have throwing a party just to have friends over for a good time, but no more gifts!

  67. icegirl1907 permalink
    July 4, 2010 10:25 am

    I’m not big on celebrating bdays but my mum always buys the cakes. To me, a birthday is just another day. Nothing special. I’d probably wish them happy birthday or occasionally put together a card [which I always do on Mother’s Day] but never a party. I tried to pull one off when I was 7 but it was not much of an affair. Plus, I’m not the social butterfly. I just don’t get the people who celebrate birthdays so lavishly. I mean, limos at a 10th bday??? Oh dear. I wonder what will happen in the next 20 years…

  68. njaiswal permalink
    July 4, 2010 10:49 am

    I agree that when birthday parties become an occasion for showing-off, competition and large scale expenditure, it is wrong. My birthdays have always been family occasions, nothing grand-scale. But my agreement with you ends there.

    Birthdays are not only materialistic occasions. I loved all my birthdays where my whole family would come over, and sneak around hiding flowers and presents. I loved being sent off to other rooms while the living room was decorated with streamers and balloons. Children do not love birthdays for material gifts Allumer. They don’t even have the concept yet. The gifts matter as somethings given on a special day, not WHAT they are. I know you said you discussed it with your daughter but she’s SEVEN for crying out loud! What does she know to make a decision? You’re an adult and it is only fair that you have reached your own decision, I strongly support individual opinion. But as someone who has had the right to form her own opinion, give your daughter the choice. Don’t impose your pre-dispositions on her.

    http://www.njaiswal.wordpress.com

    • Allumer permalink
      July 4, 2010 11:25 am

      @njaiswal – Hi, I’m going to assume you don’t have children because most parents make the effort to raise their children with their own personal values (or, as you say, pre-dispositions). I don’t see how it is either responsible or good parenting to leave a 7 year old, for crying out loud, alone in her decision making when she does not even have the benefit of a measly couple of decades of living under her belt. Nor do I believe that receiving birthday gifts is the natural right of a child, unlike love, shelter, food, understanding, the list goes on. Again, I’m shocked by how materialistic people are – I never said we do NOTHING on their birthdays, read again, we do not give gifts. They choose (or will, in the case of the baby) what they want for a special dinner and then we make it together. It is family time. Those are my values, to choose to make memories and create a stronger, warmer bond with my child unhampered by what the “privileged” world considers important. She can choose to do whatever she wishes when she is older.

      • njaiswal permalink
        July 4, 2010 12:04 pm

        I’m sorry if I offended you but you just reinforced my point! You just said you asked her so you took her opinion, now you say she can’t do anything without a couple of decades behind her, and that’s exactly my point! Her opinion isn’t formed enough right now to choose either path. And a dinner with family sounds lovely, that’s exactly what I did too, and that’s the best part of every birthday, family time. All I’m saying is that a few balloons and streamers never did any harm, and gifts are just a tiny part of it all! Don’t swear off birthdays simply as materialistic gift-giving ceremonies! Eid is a beautiful occasion and I love it personally too, but on birthdays the individual attention just makes you feel happy and special. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t leave her alone in her decision, just give her more time before she makes it!

        I’m from a third world country Allumer, and mine isn’t an American perspective. I respect your opinion about birthdays, as I’ve said before. I am too young to be a mother, but as a child I always greatly valued my parents guidance, I still do. It has made me who I am, and family values hold an individual together. What we differ on is a minor matter or choice-making.

        Again, I did not mean to cause offence. I hope you can just accept what I said as another thought-process which is simply a matter of discussion, the same way I took up what you said. Best of luck!

      • Allumer permalink
        July 4, 2010 12:33 pm

        Please read my post again. You are basing your answer on something that didn’t happen. We NEVER asked her opinion. We discussed our decision with her., i.e. we TOLD her what we were going to do from now on. I get and appreciate your comments about birthdays being individual from Eid, but we live in a society where everything is highly self-centered enough as it it. I prefer to give gifts on Eid, a day that celebrates something larger than any one individual. Also, if you read some of the other excellent comments, you can see what enormous strain and pressure the whole gift giving thing is for so many people. We don’t need more stuff – I really want to believe that my time and care is worth more to them then any gift. Thanks for your perspective!

    • July 4, 2010 11:26 am

      I think a 7 year old might very easily be able to understand. WHy shouldn’t she? My sister and I did. When we were 5 our family wen’t all out and had a huge surprise party for us, it was our last year in Canada before moving to New York, which we would the folowing month, so it was also an oppertunity to enjoy a last moment with our family. Our Parents went… kinda all out. The entire family was there, both sides, there were balloons, flowers, streamers, all of what you described there. and they made it a surprise party. They thought everyone deserves a surprise party. When we got there though, There were so many people. All I can remeber from walking through that door is that it was dark, and there were people everywhere… so many people I can’t remeber them all. And my sister and I are the youngest in the family (me the youngest actually) and when you think the next youngest cousin on my mother’s side is six year older, you can imagine that i felt swamped, everyone so much taller, even people on the stairs, and they were all screaming!!! Well thats what it felt like. I burst into tears, and then my sister joined me, she didn’t like that i was upset. I remeber my cousins comforting me, and finally succeeding by teasing me, as usual (some of my cousins are very good comedians!). that was the best part of that day. Sitting out in the dappling rain surrounded by my cousins and family laughing through tears. Thats what birthdays are about for me. So they are pretty much like any other day 😛

      My mother personally doesn’t like birthday parties. She loves other parties though. We hold an anual halloween party. and she talked to us about how we wouldn’t celebrate our birthdays with a huge party with friends. We were fine with that. ANd we were younger than 7. This was after the surprise party catastrophe. After a few years we would have a quiet lunch with no more than 5 of our friends on the weekend near our birthday. But we don’t even always do that any more. Just a regular hang out with our friends are fine. We don’t exchange gifts. if we do, its something sentimental, like an old picture beign framed, or I might paint something for my mother… my brother might write a song for someone else… For christmas, for example, this year I complied a book of recipes. Everyone chose one, and every week I baked on of the ones they chose. We lvoe baking and giving baked goods away on any random day. thats enough for us.

      • njaiswal permalink
        July 4, 2010 12:41 pm

        I agree, big parties scare me too. By family I meant my 4 cousins, all older, and around 4 adults. The friend occasions were always separate. I just love it when the family gets together, big dinners, playing games, dancing, laughing, catching up. In today’s fast-paced world where everyone is increasingly getting involved with their work and day-today lives, these occasions become increasingly special.

  69. Lulu permalink
    July 4, 2010 12:00 pm

    And what sort of broke my grim little heart were other, less financially fortunate children being mocked for not having the money either to have a birthday party like that, or to give the kind of expensive gifts that were expected. It’s hard to even verbalize how uncomfortable that makes me on so many levels. I’ll just say that I feel a birthday celebration should be about people taking some time to be happy someone they love was even born at all. It’s not about presents, not about getting to do whatever you want that day, not about out-glamming everyone else around.

    ==== This is so sad when it happens. Children start to be demanding ” I want to be like them, mom, dad. I want a party.” I know how party can make children feel special, even party makes an adult like me feel special, but what children don’t care is the meaning of the birthday itself.
    There is a tendency which I don’t agree here in my culture. Even adults here tend to be asked to treat their friends for dinner or lunch as a birthday celebration. And later the invited friends give presents to birthday people–so giving presents have changed into something different- something that you “MUST” do because you have been invited for a dinner or something like that. Let’s face it! not everyone is rich, not everyone can afford to buy something even for their daily needs. This can be stressful when one can’t return the invitation by giving gifts. I am a believer, so I think prayer is more important than any material things. Birthday can of course be celebrated, and it doesn’t have to be extravagant.
    Great post
    Wassalam

  70. July 4, 2010 12:12 pm

    Always great to get a different perspective. I’m not too bothered about what happens on my birthday, but I agree there are a lot of social pressures on giving expensive gifts to mark the occasion. It’s a shame that a lot of these celebrations have become so focussed on material goods, when it seems like the main point of them should be enjoying spending time with friends and family.

  71. July 4, 2010 1:10 pm

    I salute you.

    Its hard not to celebrate ones birthday.

  72. July 4, 2010 2:19 pm

    No! I am getting older and older every year!

  73. July 4, 2010 6:20 pm

    Mashallah! its a wonderful blog. i rly lyed the last few lines of ur blog. Yes! the founder of ur mashjid said something rly inspiring. you kno…. my dad also doesn’t know his birthdate. we do celebrate birthdays in Bangladesh, which is in Asia.
    i am a muslim, bt i dont believe that celebrating birthdays is haram. may be some elders say so.. bt at the end, who cares!!

    bt i do give gifts to street children on my birthday. i usually give them blanket and books. their smile jus healsssss my heart. its an amazing feelings.

  74. July 4, 2010 6:54 pm

    Nicely said. I’ve offered my 16-year-old son large birthday parties, but he’s simply not interested — and neither are my husband and I. It’s too much “me me me” for us. We do what you do. Either we prepare a meal together or the person whose birthday it is will choose a favorite restaurant. It’s all about spending time together as a family enjoying who we are together.

    We do tend to give my son great gifts for each year of school he completes. That is something he accomplished himself.

    Then there’s my workplace. There’s a group of women who insist on throwing a party for each person on his or her birthday. Most of us find it embarrassing and would rather not have our ages broadcast for the world, and we have begged for them to stop, but they just don’t get it. Management is afraid of this group of harpies, and I don’t blame them. Let’s hope they retire soon. I’m sure they’re convinced they’re doing something nice.

  75. July 4, 2010 8:53 pm

    My birthday is on Christmas Day. As a child I was never able to celebrate my birthday with my friends on that particular day, as they would always be with their families. To this day when people find out my birthday is on Christmas day they always say something about the fact that I must get annoyed with combined gifts and stuff… but honestly, what I missed the most was not having people call and wish me a happy birthday and not being able to spend the day with loved ones that were not part of my immediate family. As I got older I started to care less and less about my birthday and about other people’s birthdays. I’ve had many friends get upset with me for not attending their birthday parties. By that rationale I should probably be getting upset with them for not spending Christmas day with me.

    I think the focus on presents and lavish parties is ridiculous, and quite frankly, although this may stem from years of neglectful friends not calling me on my birthday, I don’t understand the need for a party at all. I’ve always spent my birthday with my family, and that means more to me than going out and getting drunk at a bar or some other nonsense. I think it’s nice to have my birthday acknowledged, but like you, I think that celebrations and presents have gotten out of hand. But perhaps I would feel differently if my situation had been one where I was getting those things… either way, I say good for you for teaching your kids that the exchange of money isn’t required to celebrate the day of one’s birth.

  76. July 4, 2010 10:59 pm

    Very brave of you in such a consumerist environment! Koodos (sp?) ! And what an impressive 7 year old, accepting that… : )

  77. Rob permalink
    July 5, 2010 12:53 am

    Great post

  78. July 5, 2010 1:32 am

    Thanks so much for writing this. You are absolutely right about how excessive and materialistic occasions like birthdays have become, and I think in the long-run you are teaching your children the value of family and love, which are far more important than extravagance and empty celebrations.

    For me personally, it was the day before my fourteenth birthday that my father suffered a minor heart attack. Thankfully, he survived and is now doing quite well, but I usually reserve my birthday for spending time with him and appreciating the fact that he is here, which as I get older and things get busier becomes a more difficult thing to do. I was always a bit anti-social as well and never liked big gatherings, but this experience reinforced what was really important, namely spending the day of my birth appreciating the people who put me here in the first place.

    In the end, the big parties will be forgotten and the useless gifts that you’ve been given will gather dust or be regifted. Birthdays, to me, are just another day, but if you must make something of it, take the time to appreciate that you are here with the ones you love.

    Brilliant post!

  79. Olivia permalink
    July 5, 2010 1:53 am

    I love to be celebrated by my family and friends on my birthdays.
    I like celebretaing their birthdays as well.
    On my birthdays, I feel different from the other ordinarily days.
    I just feel thankful about everthing.
    All the happy and sad experiences I had and to all the people I have met in my life.
    Receiving a gift is another great part of the birthdays.
    However, the most important thing is to give our feelings through the gifts.

  80. aoi permalink
    July 5, 2010 1:53 am

    Your post was very interesting and I agree.
    My family doesn`t celebrate birthdays with presents.
    Why do we need to give presents for just getting old?
    Instead my brother and I decided to appreciate to our parents that we were born.
    Thank you!

  81. July 5, 2010 1:55 am

    Hi, my name is arisa.
    I’m a student in Japan.
    I used to live in California for four years.

    As a way to celebrate birthdays, I think that gifts are okay,
    but I really get your point.
    I think that it’s not only what you get and stuff.
    Birthday’s are a day to celebrate your birth and
    to appreciate that you are born.

  82. July 5, 2010 2:14 am

    I absolutley see your point.
    My father doesn’t believe in birthdays either.
    And I never really felt like i should celebrate birthdays with parties or gifts.
    That’s why I only dinnered-out with my best friends for my 16th birthday and skipped 17 altogether.

  83. Yuiko permalink
    July 5, 2010 3:28 am

    This is very interesting. Although I can’t imagine not knowing the day of my birth, you do bring up a intriguing point about celebrating and parties. For my birthday, my family and I eat cake together and I get a present from my family. It’s nothing extravagent compared to other families who throw big parties and I don’t mind at all. It’s one of the few times that my family can all have a special dinner together and I guess that’s the most important part.

  84. July 5, 2010 4:44 am

    I do agree that people these days find a reason to celebrate ALL THE TIME! But at the same time, everyone is alway busy and birthdays give an opportunity for a group of friends to get together. I don’t think the celebration should be extravagant but giving that we live in such an individualistic society, a get together on your birthday is not a bad idea.

  85. July 5, 2010 6:05 am

    Greetings from India,

    Even in India, not many celebrate birthdays with too much pomp. A lot of those who do celebrate, do so privately with family members, close friends – all whom you can count on your finger tips.

    One of the reasons why people in the west celebrate birthdays is perhaps that they dont have too many occasions to celebrate. So they have a lot of other days like father’s day, mother’s day, valentine’s day etc. Very soon, one of the greeting card companies will introduce dog day, cat day, pet day etc.

    Indians celebrate a lot of festivals. This is one of the reasons why a lot of Indian companies work for more than 5 days a week. (5.5-6 days a week). This is to suffice for so many holidays Indians get to celebrate. Some of the festivals run for more than a day, almost into weeks. Even the new year’s is not very popular compared to the west, as every state, region and religion have their own new years day.

  86. July 5, 2010 6:25 am

    there is a difference between a present and a gift. I think what you’re referring to is a ‘present’ whereas a gift is something that comes from the heart.

    Seth Godin explains the difference very well:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/02/the-hidden-power-of-a-gift.html

  87. July 5, 2010 6:58 am

    I agree that buying expensive things for yourself just because it is your birthday is not a smart thing to do. That is because you do not neccesarily need the thing.
    However, giving presents do show the love you have toward the person you are giving this present to. I give birthday presents to my friends and family and friends to show that I love them and that I appreciate them for the things they do for me.
    Personally, I do not feel disturbed if someone gave me a birthday present. I think that is what most people feel when they get presents from people.
    It doesn’t matter how big the celebration is. There is a meaning in the “celebrating” of birthdays.

  88. July 5, 2010 7:42 am

    Good post.I enjoy this post.

  89. July 5, 2010 7:42 am

    hello
    If God is your helper, no one can defeat you. However, if He abandons you, who would help you? The true believers trust in God.

  90. July 5, 2010 7:53 am

    I agree that birthdays are overdone nowadays. However, I love birthdays so I won’t be giving them up :).
    In my son’s day-care he had to give a small present to each kid on his own birthday, and I made him a train cake. I thought that was great and certainly enough. For my own, we are inviting my family and close friends to a BBQ . I requested no presents – I just want to be with my friends and I love cooking.
    But good for you for explaining to your daughter so well! I agree that the presents are pointless crap mostly. Our parents love to buy their grandchildren presents, but they usually stay at their house for the kids to play with when they are there – win-win situation all around.
    Thanks for an interesting post!

  91. July 5, 2010 11:03 am

    I agree!!!!
    I tHink that gIfts are good,,…
    veRy wELl…

  92. July 5, 2010 11:34 am

    Even here in Sweden the birthday parties are getting larger over the years… it makes me dizzy just to hear about all the new bithday plans with pirate-themes and masquerades. I remember when I was a kid. Me and my frinds just wanted to spend time together. The presents was not important at all… they mostly was just left in a corner some where for someones parent to clean up. I think that finding reasons to celebrate is a good thing, but celebrating for the right reasons is also important… if you get my drift. Most of the time… since I myselft have become a parent… the thought has occured to me that the presents often is more important to the the other parents more then they are to the kid whos birthday is celebrated. Well … why is that? I think more parents should be as responsible as you are. Congratulations to your doughter.

    -S

  93. kelliejwin permalink
    July 5, 2010 1:12 pm

    I agree that too much emphasis is put on the gifts for birthday parties. However, I’m nearly 40 and we still have get-togethers with family for our birthdays. It’s a chance to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to celebrate being alive. Gifts don’t mean anything to me, and if there wasn’t a party, I wouldn’t be sad about it. When my children are invited to parties, I never buy expensive presents for the other children. Our children already have too many things. So if some kid wants to stick their tongue out at mine because they didn’t get an expensive present from them, then perhaps we don’t want him as a friend anyway.

  94. Nicole permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:37 pm

    Excellent post, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been opting out of birthdays for years, except for maybe to share a nice dinner with my loved ones.

    I’m not in the loop to know what’s going on in the world of kids, but I find the birthday habits of many of those in my peer group – and we’re in our late 20s, here – very crass. To throw a birthday party for yourself, as an adult, where presents are expected … people here have said this is just North American practice, not bad, not good, but if you read the etiquette books – the North American etiquette books – you’ll find this practice is not at all recommended. Rather, it’s the result of our capitalism and the myth of autonomy.

    Kudos for helping your children to grow up as mature, thinking, considerate individuals.

  95. July 5, 2010 3:01 pm

    WOW!! Talk about Feedback!!

    First off, Congrats on a Wonderful Post!

    I appreciate and respect your views. I Love:

    “Make a big meal for everyone on your birthday.” Lovely advice, and one that I intend to put into practice soon with my biggest girly – who is looking forward to cooking dinner with mom on her birthday this month.”

    THIS is a Beautiful way to celebrate your B-day. With those you Love. Showing them that you Love them by your efforts.

    Lovely!!

    Happy B-Day to your Eldest BTW.

  96. July 5, 2010 7:34 pm

    Wrapping the celebration of our birth in the all-or-nothing package of exteme birthdays versus erasing these celebrations doesn’t address the true essence of this age-action attitudes. I once read that the miracle of life easily becomes more and more taken for granted as we begin to expect to wake up each day and go through the days, years and decades of our lives forgetting the wonder of how truly unique life is. The anniversary of your birth should be a reminder to you and to your close ones about how blessed we are to have been created and brought into this world. It allows our own “New Year” to begin, yet again, and rekindle our passion for life…birthdays should be celebrations (pick your style or no style) that remind us to be thankful for the life we have to live and to make each day a celebration making our existence a beautiful journey worth sharing!
    Great post and ignition for some great opinions and reflections!

  97. July 5, 2010 8:38 pm

    Nicely elucidated.. Really liked your dual feelings- as a mother and as a wife.
    And “Happy b’day” in advance…!!
    Keep smiling.

  98. Liz permalink
    July 5, 2010 11:58 pm

    I found it wonderful that a Muslim found some joy in some Buddist thinking. Imagine the possibilities if we all were able to take a lesson from this.

  99. July 6, 2010 12:00 am

    I don’t know how I feel about this one. I see your point that birthdays are getting ridiculously extravagant and sometimes it causes bullying if one little girl can’t outdo the other, but like many have said, a birthday is a time to remember the happy day when one is born. For little kids, that reinforcement kind of comes from the happiness involved in material things. Maybe that’s wrong but I think that’s just the way it is.

    Was immensely interesting to read your perspective on it though! Great post 🙂

    Lesley-Jane

    http://youthfulmeanders.wordpress.com/

  100. aspiringtobesomeone permalink
    July 6, 2010 1:10 am

    Very interesting view on Birthdays. The thing that I find pity in is your second child never had the chance to experience Birthdays the way that your first did. Big birthday bashes are getting ridiculous but that doesn’t mean that a small party won’t do.

    What I’ve always found most important of Birthdays is who you spend the day with. It’s the one day of the year where everyone’s feelings should be clear. The people who visit, or call, or wish you a “Happy Birthday” are those who couldn’t see their lives without you, and you’ll always return the favor because it’s the same for you.

    Nice Post.

  101. yamaonna permalink
    July 6, 2010 2:03 am

    Loved this post! It’s given me a few points to think about.
    I think I might try the idea of giving to others on my birthday, I think I would enjoy that alot!

  102. July 6, 2010 6:58 am

    being NOT American, I never understood why people made such a huge fuss about birthdays – I’ve seen friends that throw fits (I’m 21) because their birthday isn’t how they planned, or it isn’t “special” enough. Also, that MTV show, Sweet 16 is ridiculous and disgusting.

  103. July 6, 2010 7:57 am

    Salam, thank you for writing this 🙂

    Many of my thoughts concurred (minus the kids bit coz I dont have any).

    Try explaining no presents to my family though… very hard!

  104. July 6, 2010 10:37 am

    Good, I am agree with this. We must teach our children, not just to be clever and rich, but we teach our children to be a human who have love to every body in the world and can give any thing for human life.

    http://www.worldbisnis.wordpress.com

  105. July 6, 2010 12:43 pm

    Interesting post 🙂 It’s true that many people don’t celebrate birthdays that much, and it really seems strange to me. Especially when someone says they don’t know when their birthday is.

    It’s sad that birthdays are becoming this way in America. Extravagant and a contest for being glamorous. Personally I prefer to spend it with my closest friends, but I also enjoy a good gift 😀 😀

  106. July 6, 2010 12:49 pm

    yum, that cake looks delicious! haha

  107. SocialAnswers permalink
    July 6, 2010 1:38 pm

    Loving the concept and extremely loving the fact that I have discovered this blog.
    Keep at it- great job!

  108. Mariko Sugita permalink
    July 6, 2010 1:52 pm

    I agree with this.
    I think that a birthday is a day to remind that person how much they’ve grown up and made a difference in people’s lives. And also to appreciate people around them for raising them up.
    But unfortunately some people take extravagent parties and expensive Birthday parties for granted even forgetting that the reason they have come this far is because of family and friends who appreciate their presence.

  109. iLikeTheDark permalink
    July 6, 2010 2:31 pm

    I can go with some of what you say, but not all.
    I am Christian – or, atleast, I was brought up that way – and my parents rarely get me anything for my birthday. As for a celebration… why, the bills in themselves would trigger a stroke. I don’t get cakes or cookies, or anything that teenagers like.
    But I can understand why. I mean, getting to grow a year older in such a risky, dangerous world is a gift in itself.
    But, however, I don’t get anything on festivals either. It comes, it goes. And possibly the worst thing is that my parents seem to have the time (and money) to get extravagant gifts for their relatives, people they see once a year and who never did them an iota of good (other than reducing the weight of their wallets, which is nothing good at all).
    This may be jealousy, but I don’t think it is very fair…

    One day, I’d love to cook. With my mother. But I don’t know how to cook, and I don’t know whether my mother would like me to cook with her. I’ve asked her. She told me that she didn’t want me to waste her time. I can understand that, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with it.

    • July 6, 2010 3:01 pm

      Thats Horrible! It sounds as though your parents are neglecting you! I love cooking with my mom! I’ve been with her in the kitchen ever since I was a baby. WIth either her or my grandmother I was always on someone’s hip chewing on raw pasta or tasting it to see if it was cooked. I’m christian too, but the reason we don’t echange gifts so much in our family is that my siblings and I feel we are extremely fortunate. We never want or need anything. Our parent’s dont see the need for someone to tell them to buy us a gift because we get them all year round minus the wrapping and presents. We also feel that they pay for enough stuff for us. Our parents are constantly busy chofering us to and from practices or rehersals or lessons of one sort or the other. I mean dance lessons at my level without the extra expenses of new shoes every few months, leotards and seminars and exams and such is expensive and they make me imensly happy so whats the need for them to waste more money on me?

      I really wish you had the oppertunity to bake or cook with your mother. Does she cook? Maybe shes just worried about having someone young who doesn’t know what they are doing in the kitchen which can be a dangerous and hectic place… Even to this day Im not alowed to cook without someone else in the house and ive been cooking more or less alone for a few years now.

      You should talk to your parents. Let them know you feel unappreciated. Are you an only child?

      • July 6, 2010 8:12 pm

        Sure thing! Saya! Thats the great thing about friendship! Its for anyone to give to anyone!

        I really hate this iLikeTheDark. Its horrible. Now I’m not saying it is neglect, but it is pretty horrible when parent’s dont have time for their kids due to their job or whatever. I mean I know a girl at my school who is the eldest of four. her mom is a stay at home, and she gives me the creeps but she is a bitch and the girls does suffer from neglect. Another girl, her mom is a high end business woman and she never sees her daughter except on weekends though she has the right spirit to being a mom. She loves her daughter and is always there to for her.

        I agree about both watching the Food Network and Cooking with friends! Its great fun to make a mess and eat raw cookie dough and such while having a good laugh with your friends.

        Now I’m gonna make a sugestion and Im assumer in this suggestion, that you live in the northern hemisphere and so its summer for you. In this case I say watch loads of Food network, or whatever cooking channel you can find and find a recipe you like, that isnt too hard and that your parents would like. Perfect this recipe over the summer, and once you think it is good, treat your parents to a full meal all cooked by you. It will show your parents how mature and responsible you are and that you can take your own innitiative. In the least it might show them that you are grown up, and so may act as a wake up call. Maybe if they realise they only have a few more years with you and so only a few more blinks of the eye they might try to take hold of that time and possibly realise that they’ve missed out on all your growing up.

        Anyways, check this out that I wrote about the poor girl in my school:

        http://mirellarose.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/injustice-reigns-everywhere/

        and best of luck. Know that you are a great person and though its not your parents’ fault, it can’t be helped. Just promise me, for their sake and your own, that when you have kids, you will lavish them with love, affection and attention that your parents never gave you. In doing so it will heal yourself as well. 🙂

        Cheers world!

    • July 6, 2010 5:06 pm

      😦 That doesn’t sound very good, especially how your mom said that she didn’t want you to waste her time!! 😦 I agree with Mirellarose, try to talk to them.

      I don’t want to insult anybody. But this is what I don’t like about “Christianity”.

      • July 6, 2010 8:01 pm

        Hey drusillah!

        I don’t think it’s really to do with Christianity when people are being numpties – if you think about what having a ‘Christian spirit’ meant, it was always a spirit of mercy and tolerance. As with most things, it’s people who subvert them and turn them into weapons.

        So the real problem? People.

        iLikeTheDark, the next best thing to cooking with your mother (okay, they’re not quite the same, but you know) is excessively watching the Food Network! And cooking with friends is nice, too. It’s tough when your mother can’t give time, but she must have her reasons. I like what Mirellarose says : )

        (Will you be my friend, too, Mirellarose?)

      • July 6, 2010 8:19 pm

        sorry, I didnt realise I could post ^ that reply down here… :S I was looking for the button but couldnt find it. Oh well. cest la vie.

      • July 7, 2010 8:48 am

        Hmmm, I guess replying to answers doesn’t go to a deeper level. Anyway…

        Saya, I appreciate that you normally answered without any anger 🙂 I agree with you, but in my experience there are many Christian “numpties” that claim to be Christians and are hypocrites. But true, it’s people who subvert them.

        Cooking with friends is great 😀

  110. July 6, 2010 8:03 pm

    Birthdays are a fun ocassion for kids. As an adult I get my wifes parents a cake on her birthday as a thank you for giving birth to and raising such a wonderful woman. Other than that our birthday is just another day in the revolves around the sun.

  111. July 9, 2010 3:15 am

    Nice blog. Good job

  112. July 9, 2010 7:30 am

    I thought that was great and certainly enough. For my own, we are inviting my family and close friends to a BBQ

  113. Kaimalino permalink
    July 19, 2010 4:20 pm

    I love this post! Here’s my superfluous comment, buried so deep no one will ever see. 😉
    In Hawai’i, a baby’s first birthday is a big one. The tradition is a throwback to when too many babies didn’t live to see their first birthday, although the celebration is light nowadays and no one mentions its origins. Families host a lu’au and invite extended family and friends who are/will be important in the child’s life to come and eat and celebrate.
    We have continued this tradition for my children, even though we live in Utah where a baby lu’au is an unfamiliar tradition. I’ve always put “No gifts, please; your presence is out present” or some such on the invitations because, seriously, what does a one-year-old need, and the party is about rejoicing in a sense of community more than collecting unneeded loot.
    The exception was with my first son. He had been a sick little baby and had spent time at the children’s hospital. It was a year of medical adventures and he frightened his parents far too often as he made a full recovery. We were acutely aware not every baby does regain health, and deeply grateful for the excellent care he had received. So, enclosed with the lu’au invitation was a note saying no gifts for our baby, please, but suggesting a contribution be made towards the charitable work of the children’s hospital or another organization that provides midwives in remote South America with supplies for newborns and their mothers, who might otherwise wrap them in newspaper, even in cold weather. (It’s hardly defying minimalism to want every baby to have a clean blanket, I’d say, especially when I’ve been given an embarrassing amount of blankets for each baby.) It was lovely to hear guests comment they were glad to send a little donation for a baby who really needs something, instead of buying more clutter for my comfortable family because they couldn’t imagine what we need (because there isn’t anything).
    Fast forward eight years–we usually just have a family meal and a few gifts to celebrate birthdays, but turning eight is a big deal in LDS culture because that’s the year a child is eligible to be baptized. I was concerned the spiritual aspects of my oldest son’s baptism ordinance would be lost if they were at all combined with the “mega hoopla” of turning eight, so we decided to host a birthday party with friends on a different day than the baptism. We held a party at a local children’s arcade. It will be a happy memory for my son, but I was somewhat horrified and won’t suggest we do it again. A children’s arcade is really just a casino for children,I’ve learned, and the greed and materialism it promotes was stressful for me to watch. The only upside is that there was an etiquette lesson about always being pleased with a gift and writing thank-you notes, but I wouldn’t recommend such a party. It gave me chest pains.
    My husband and I somewhat-jokingly have what we call a “birthday season.” This is when you stretch out your birthday so indulgence comes on multiple days and you say things like, “You should rub my feet because my birthday is next week,” and, “Let’s go to the movies because my birthday was last week.” Not all indulgences are material things, and they are often shared indulgences. It’s fun.
    I love sending treats for friends’ birthdays, since a birthday is often a reasonable excuse to give a prize. But I’m a fan of general thougtfulness, too. I’m also a fan of Zen Shorts and panda accents!
    Your children are not at all deprived, they are being taught awareness instead of frantic consumerism. Congrats!

    • Allumer permalink
      July 19, 2010 6:50 pm

      Buried but not forgotten! My daughter had her 8th birthday yesterday, and we had a blast. We went to the park where she roller-bladed, came home and made dinner, played games. And I’m so glad we didn’t get her presents because they kept rolling in from all her “aunties” from the Masjid! I get the whole first birthday thing, we’re lucky to live in a time where there isn’t quite so much worry about babies living, but still, yeah, as a mom, I do feel that. Also, there are many religions where a certain birthday signifies something, obviously for you guys the 8th birthday signifies something far greater than just a birthday – it’s a spiritual guidepost of sorts. Birthday are a celebration of life – not stuff, which is why little things like back rubs during “birthday season” are great – I love that! I’m not against presents or parties or anything else – I think I’m just trying to get back to the real reason we celebrate as opposed to what companies who consider us “consumers” are telling us!

      And I’m so with you on the arcade. I remember them from childhood. Chest pains indeed!

  114. September 4, 2011 9:24 pm

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