It's my party….

This past week was my birthday. I’m not generally thrilled about my birthday. There’s the whole getting older thing, which has been quite a drag ever since 29. Then there’s the party…

I’m of the bent that birthday parties should be small family affairs, with a few heartfelt gifts and some good food. However, my husband, John, loves to make birthdays a BIG DEAL. He wants to have the whole day be special–with gifts, a meal at a restaurant, well-wishes from family, fun gifts, etc.

John and I have two sets of friends that we get together with quite often. One set throws a huge bash for everyone’s bday–from the tiny babes to the adults. The party includes a meal and often has a theme of some kind. The parties are on the calendar weeks in advance and everyone is expected to attend even though gifts are optional. The other group of friends rarely marks a birthday. If they do, it’s only a passing comment or joke, not a celebration.

For a few years John and I tried to combine these groups of friends for our family’s birthday parties. We staged a potluck meal (generally in our garden), and had all ages attend a bring some poetry to share rather than gifts. The poems ranged from raunchy limericks written on napkins in the car on the way to the party to beautifully handwritten cards with classical poems. The parties were fun and, I think, enjoyed by nearly everyone.

But lately we’ve lapsed lately in our birthday celebrations. Mine this year included a special dessert shared with some friends and a small gift exhange with family members. It was very fun, low-key, and sweet. I felt loved but not overwhelmed.

However, I feel like maybe I should be doing more to celebrate birthdays. While the low-key events are easy and lovely, they don’t create the kind of memories that will last very long. They aren’t dramatic and showy and photo-worthy. Are we short-changing ourselves with our lack of partying? Should we be having grander celebrations? What do you do to mark your birthdays?


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

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  1. Caroline says:

    As a low key b-day person myself, I’m all for not making a huge deal out of every birthday. Maybe once every five years or so it’s nice to do something a bit more special.

    I think my lack of interest in big b-day parties stems from self-consciousness. I hate everyone sitting around and looking at me while I open up presents and look properly delighted. There just seems to me to be something inauthentic or theater-like about the whole sit around and open up presents thing. And, I don’t want anyone to get me a present just because they feel like they should. In my ideal world, such gifts would be more spontaneous (and rare).

  2. Dora says:

    As many can attest, I am all for photo worthy events. I like to celebrate birthdays, eventhough some years I’m better at remembering than others. In the past, we’ve celebrated birthdays by going dancing, private room karaoke-ing, bowling, or even just out to a restaurant for dinner. And yes, these all involve spending some amount of money, but we try to keep costs low. My favorite way to celebrate my birthday is to have a potluck BBQ in my backyard. That way costs are low, rewards are high, and there’s just something about spreading a blanket on the grass for a picnic in June that’s so relaxing and communal. In a way, since I can be a lousy personal oral historian, it helps me mark the seasons and the years as they pass.

  3. JKS says:

    There is nothing wrong with getting older! Being older is great.
    I was just at a birthday celebration of a 45 year old and a 25 year old in our ward. People we talking about getting older, and saying things like “you are as young as you feel” or “you are as young as you act” or that sort of tripe. I was a little frustrated because the young ones were “consoling” the older ones like if they tried really hard, they could be fabulous and young like them.
    I flat out said I’d rather be 35 than 25. 35 is great. I’m smarter and wiser.
    Those younger people should be looking up to us as who they want to be. Not telling us we can be like them if we get a little plastic surgery and just be young at heart.
    Age is great! Celebrate it.

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