Four ideas for how to solve the problem of your birthday.
Throughout much of human history, people didn’t celebrate their birthdays. Many people didn’t even know when their birthday was.
“Historically, only emperors and saints — you know, the big ones — celebrated birthdays,” said William J. Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota.
In America, wealthier parents in the early 1800s started celebrating their children’s birthdays and the trend trickled down to the masses, according to Elizabeth H. Pleck’s book, “Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, Consumer Culture and Family Rituals.” By the 1950s, your standard child’s birthday party was an intimate affair: some cake, some ice cream. That was pretty much it. There definitely wasn’t an emphasis on presents, according to Dr. Doherty.
Birthday parties underwent a glow-up in the 1980s when family entertainment centers — bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, arcades — proliferated. They encouraged families to throw celebrations on site, Dr. Pleck wrote. Suddenly, there were multiple parties thrown for children: one with the nuclear family, one with extended family, one at school, one with friends.
“This is the one day in the year where that individual as a person can be honored and they can see themselves as having their special day,” said Dr. Doherty. He started Birthdays Without Pressure, an informal group of parents and professionals in St. Paul, Minn., who examine ways to reduce the stress, financial burden and excess associated with children’s birthday parties. “In an individualistic culture like ours, that’s a big deal.”
Of course, not all birthdays will feel the same for you. Some years, you might be more enthusiastic about throwing a party or organizing an outing with loved ones. Other years you might feel dread over an impending age or pressure to enjoy the day. Here are some alternative — joyous, even — ways to approach the planning.
Think about the gathering, not the event
Priya Parker thinks more people should shift their thinking when it comes to planning their birthday celebration. The author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters” cautions us to not be so focused on the event (a dinner party at a trendy restaurant, an informal meet-up at a neighborhood bar). Instead, we should identify a need we have in our life and who can help us fulfill it.
“When you invite specific people to come and address a real need that you have, that’s actually a courageous act because it’s vulnerable,” the author said. “One, you’re saying ‘I need help.’ But two, you’re saying ‘and you can help me.’”
If you’re craving adventure on your birthday, invite the daredevils in your life to join you for, say, a skydiving class. Not only will your birthday plans be more meaningful to you, but your guests will feel honored you thought of them to help you celebrate.
“The way we spend our time is contagious,” Ms. Parker said. “Part of the power of doing something different is it gives other people permission to do the same.”
Ask: What gives you joy?
When it came to planning his birthday celebration this year, Ernest Owens, 28, a writer-at-large at Philadelphia Magazine, asked himself what true joy looked and felt like. To him, it looked like taking a staycation at a fancy hotel; it looked like enjoying fabulous food at a local steakhouse with friends; it looked like a lavish date with his partner.
Mr. Owens, who lives in Philadelphia, coordinated festivities for his entire birthday weekend. He made it a point to not to talk about work and enjoy the company of his friends.
“It’s really that important to me, especially as a black, queer man because I know a lot of people in my life don’t get to make it to this age,” Mr. Owens said. “I’ve seen and have been affected by folks who have died very young.”
Do something nice for someone else on your birthday
“What if birthdays were less about getting stuff, getting drunk and getting older — and more about making the world a better place?” That’s the question the Birthday Project asks. Established by Robyn Bomar, 47, nine years ago, the Birthday Project is a group that encourages people to give back to their community on their birthday. The idea was borne out of Ms. Bomar’s reluctance to celebrate her 38th birthday. In an effort to adjust the energy of the day, she chose to do 38 acts of kindness for other people, like handing out water bottles to joggers and feeding parking meters; one thoughtful activity for each year of her life.
She hopes doing something for someone else on your birthday becomes the norm, on par with receiving a gift, blowing out candles or noshing on cake. “19 million people share a birthday across the world every day. If everybody just did one nice thing for someone on their birthday, it would create a shift in the world,” Ms. Bomar said.
Doing nice things for other people to ring in your big day is rewarding because the day isn’t just about who showed up, or what you did or didn’t get for your birthday. It becomes about the impact you make and the ripple it creates, she said.
“You go to bed that night of your birthday and you just feel like, maybe you matter or that you made a difference,” she said. “When you’re getting older, I guess what we really want is to know that what we’re doing here still matters.”
Arriana McLymore, 24, was used to having her birthday slip through the cracks. Ms. McLymore, a recent N.Y.U. graduate, would usually be juggling classes and settling into new living spaces when her birthday in mid-September came around. For her birthday this year, she volunteered at a soup kitchen in the Bronx. A few weeks before her big day, she posted a call on her Instagram account to see who would want to go with her. She was pleased when a handful of friends expressed an interest in coming along.
“I’m excited this year because I actually took time and I feel like things are coming through the way that I wanted them to,” she said.
Plan your own birthday and be intentional
When people have a difficult time around birthdays, Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed clinical social worker based in Charlotte, N.C., suggests they plan something for their birthday.
“Because if you allow other people to dictate what you want to do on this big day for you,” she said, “chances are you’ll be disappointed.”
Nick Gray, 38, the founder of Museum Hack, a company that leads renegade tours of museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, threw himself a birthday party at Lincoln Center. He loves putting people in the same room and watching new connections bloom. “It’s crazy how few adults make new friends and how hard it is,” he said.
The theme was “birthday conference.” He handed out name tags to the 70 friends in attendance, 20 of them gave talks on whatever subjects they chose. Both the Brooklyn United drum line, a marching band, and North Coast NYC, a hip-hop improv comedy team, made appearances.
Even though his birthday party was over-the-top — he had a staff of 10 people helping him with the event — Mr. Gray insists birthday parties don’t have to be complicated. If you want to host a dinner party, order out. “Nobody cares if you cook your own food,” he said.
Mr. Gray acknowledges that the main reason that most people don’t plan birthday parties is because it can feel selfish to celebrate, well, yourself for being born: “I would encourage them to think about the gift that your birthday party creates to bring your friends together.”
It’s my sister Paula’s birthday. Several years ago I wrote a post on her birthday, and later I wrote a post about ways to celebrate your birthday. I reprise and update them today, as a way to tell my little Sis happy birthday, and give us all something to think about . . .
Happy Birthday Paula!
My sister Paula had a birthday today. I won’t tell what number it is, because, well, she may not want everyone to know.
Early this morning I sent her an email, that in part read,
“…take some time to today just for you. Even if it is just 15 minutes, do something you love as a celebration of the fabulous person (and sister) that you are.”
As I read her reply a few minutes ago, about all of the tasks she has before her kids are in bed and she could even think of that 15 minutes, I realized that her story is the story of all of our lives.
We may not have it, but we all need to take that 15 minutes. It might be meditation, reading, a hobby, anything that allows us to learn, renew, refresh or reflect.
While I suggested it to my sister for a special day, let me suggest it to all of us, every day. Those fifteen minutes will make you a better leader, team member, parent. They will make you a better person.
How will you spend your 15 minutes today, whether it is your birthday or not?
If today isn’t your birthday, read the rest of this now, (and feel free to do one of these suggestions), but also, put a reminder in your calendar to read this post again the day before your next birthday (and hey, why not make it a recurring note and read it every year) . . .
Perhaps you don’t really celebrate your birthday – some people I know don’t – or perhaps your birthday is your favorite day of the year. Either way you will want to read this article.
If you are a birthday lover – this will give you more reasons to love your day. If you aren’t a birthday fan (it just reminds you that “I’m a year older today”), this article will give you a completely different focus for this day.
Notice the title isn’t 12 ways to celebrate a birthday; it’s 12 ways to celebrate your birthday! What follows are 12 specific ideas to make your special day even more special.
- Eat your favorite food. It’s your day – you deserve it. Even if your favorite foods don’t “go together,” they do today. Enjoy!
- Do a favorite childhood activity. Maybe it was a board game, or playing tag, or doodling. Whatever it was, do it today! Do it as a way to reignite your inner child and your creativity. Do it for the pure enjoyment. You will be amazed at how it will make you feel.
- Remember your favorite birthday. If you have a particular birthday that sticks out to you, spend time thinking about it and reveling in those memories.
- Laugh out loud. Do something that makes you laugh with delight! Laughter feels good and is good for you. Perhaps one of the other ideas on this list will make you laugh out loud – if so, great!
- Give a gift to someone else. We all know it feels better to give than receive, so why not give gifts to others on our birthday? Consider starting with your mother – after all she had a more memorable day when you were born than you did!
- Give your day away! You don’t have to give a physical gift, you can give your time – to someone you love, to a charity or whatever you wish! Make your day a gift to someone else.
- Give yourself the gift of time. Sometimes our days are so packed with events and tasks that we don’t have time for ourselves. Consider giving yourself the gift of time for your own rest and relaxation (or the time to do another item on this list!). It doesn’t have to be a long time – think about the 15 minute tip I suggested above.
- Send yourself a card. A few days or weeks before your birthday find a card you love, sign it and write yourself a note. Then address and stamp the envelope and ask someone to mail it to you a couple of days before your birthday. This is a great way to guarantee a card, and I promise it will make you smile.
- Spend time with someone you love. This might overlap with a couple of other ideas on the list – but that’s OK. What could make for a better day than spending time with those you care about the most?
- Make a memory. Challenge yourself to create memories today that will last a lifetime.
- Reflect on the last year. Your birthday is a milestone, so it can be a great day to review your results and actions of the past year to see how you have done and determine what is working – and what isn’t!
- Set some new goals. Today is a perfect day to look forward, to project into the future, to set goals for the next twelve months. If you don’t have written goals, today is a perfect day to create them!
You’ll notice this isn’t like some lists you read that make you think you should try all of the ideas. It wouldn’t be possible to do all of these things in one day. The ideas fall into a focus on your past, present or future – and all of them are about you.
The key is to pick one that feels right to you and add it to your celebration. It is your day after all!
Final Note: While these ideas are written from the perspective of celebrating a birthday, all could be used – though perhaps tweaked slightly – for a team anniversary, company anniversary or other organizational milestone date.
Oh, and one last thing. You don’t have to wait for your birthday to do any of these things. You are alive and you can celebrate for that reason using any of these ideas you’d like. You have my permission.
You might be at home, but you can still have a memorable celebration.
Birthday parties are special. Not only do they mark the passing of another fabulous trip around the sun, but they’re also one of the best ways to gather your friends and family for all the festive desserts, cute cocktails, and whimsical decor your heart desires. Obviously, this year is different. Amid our new normal of social distancing, get-togethers both small and large have been called off, leaving many spring babies — plus their parents, partners, and friends — to celebrate at home.
While you may not be able to throw the bash you had planned, there’s no reason to skip the festivities altogether. If you or someone you love has a birthday coming up, plan one of these virtual birthday party ideas you can do at home. From sending your friend a delivery of champagne to hosting a party via video chat, there are plenty of ways to make the birthday girl or boy feel loved on their special day. And when this pandemic ends — and it will end — you’ll have every excuse to throw the biggest, baddest birthday party of all time.
The easiest way to show your love is with a card. If you don’t live close enough to your friend to drop one in their mailbox (no contact required!), send an e-card using a service like Paperless Post.
The only way to improve upon a traditional birthday card is to make it interactive. Use a service like Tribute to create a personalized video montage. Ask friends and family to record their birthday wishes and Tribute will put them together and mail the guest of honor a video card (it’s like a traditional audio card that also has a thin video screen). The gift is sure to be a keepsake for years to come.
Set up a meeting on Zoom and invite all your friends for a virtual happy hour. The video quality on Zoom is impeccable and you can see each participant’s face in a simple grid view. Want to make things really special? Tell the guest of honor to sign on at little later than everyone else and sing “Happy Birthday” when they log on.
The two of you may not be able to raise a glass together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say “cheers.” Nowadays, there are so many ways to deliver champagne, wine, and liquor straight to someone’s door. Try a site like ReserveBar, which is available on-demand in many parts of the country.
If you love movies, schedule a virtual watch party. Download the Netflix Party extension in Chrome, and you and your pals will be able to watch the same Netflix movie at the same time. The extension features synchronized video playback (so everyone’s screen will pause and resume at the same time); plus, a chat room so you can share your thoughts on the film.
A great way to support your local businesses in these hard times is by ordering delivery. Choose a local bakery or a restaurant with stellar desserts and send something sweet like a cake, cookies, or fro-yo.
If you prefer active birthday parties to boozy ones, gather your friends for a workout class. During the coronavirus outbreak, dozens of yoga studios, gyms, and trainers are offering free live-streaming workouts. Have everyone log on to the same one and connect on Zoom for a hearty meal afterward. Brunch, anyone?
Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go to someone’s house. Deck out your car with balloons and signs and drive by your pal’s place. Tell them to look outside and sing “Happy Birthday” when they come to the door.
Birthdays are the perfect time to learn something new. Museums, zoos, and theme parks around the world are offering free virtual tours right now, which means you can see exhibits at the Louvre, the Vatican, the San Diego Zoo, and more from the comfort of your couch. Set up a group chat while you navigate the exhibits and discuss your findings.
If you’re musically inclined, write your friend a song and present it to them via video chat. Even if your song isn’t incredible (or on key), it’s the thought that counts. If your entire group is artsy, have everyone log on to the chat with something they’ve created for the birthday boy or girl. It could be a song, a poem, a speech, a dance, or a piece of art.
Just because you’re celebrating your birthday at home doesn’t mean you have to do so in your PJs. Set a theme for your virtual party and have everyone go all out. Possible themes could be Hollywood glam, rock ‘n’ roll, ’90s, or masks and mimosas — the options are endless!
I have actually gone back and forth about this post today! I was going to post it…and then I wasn’t….and then I was going to… and then I wasn’t… and now if you are reading this, I guess I decided just to DO IT!
Today I am 27 YEARS OLD! I normally don’t like to announce to the world that it is my birthday – but with a few little pushes from people that I love, I decided to make a special birthday post today. The name of my blog is Today’s The Best Day…. and guess what! Today IS the BEST day! So we are going to celebrate!
FOR 25 OF THE BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY THEMES
Birthdays have always been super special in my life. I have always loved parties, presents, cake, ice cream and spending time with friends and family. I remember when I was little I had LISTS of items that I wanted out of magazines or things I saw on commercials. As I got older my lists slowly turned from pages long into one thing: gift cards and cash! I just wanted to go shopping, of course! This year, as I am a mom and a wife – I didn’t even have a list! I told my husband I didn’t need anything. I just wanted to spend the day with him and Laila. Just us three – going to the park and making memories.
I decided though that today… I am going to have fun! I may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t celebrate! In fact – as women, it seems like we are ALWAYS doing things for other people and never for ourselves. Do you agree?
I am so grateful to be alive! I am another year older. I have had so many blessings come into my life this year – one being YOU! This past year I started this blog and it has grown into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined… because of you! THANK YOU! SO – let’s celebrate!
Make this birthday different from the rest by doing a NachoBirthday. Nachobirthday.com is a new crowd funding website that lets users celebrate life in there own special way whether that means helping others, giving back, or raising funds for something you really want … check it out ..It’s the new birthday online …
In addition to checking out Nacho Birthday, also take a look at the list below. I asked 27 WOMEN
1. Go out to a super yummy dinner and go home to have cake and ice cream with friends and family
2. Get a hotel room for the night
3. Go out to a nice dinner with your husband. Let HIM choose and surprise you!
4. Have a family game night
5. Go see a movie
6. Enjoy breakfast in bed and stay in your pajamas all day long
7. Go to the beach
8. Order pizza and rent a movie – date night in!
9. Don’t clean or cook all day
10. Throw a party
11. Go to the temple and thank God for the blessings in your life and the opportunity to be on the planet another year.
12. Go somewhere as a family – a museum or amusement park
13. Go on a vacation
14. Go shopping and buy a new outfit
15. Take a picture as a family every year and see how much you
16. Go around town and do acts of service
17. Have a movie day
18. Do something YOU love!
19. Take a nice long bath
20. Have the husband take the kids to the park and enjoy your own quiet time
21. Get a pedicure or manicure
22. Write all of your blessings from the year down in a journal
23. Buy yourself a gift!
24. Check something off your Bucket List
25. Go to karaoke or do something out of your box.
26. Go to the spa and get a massage
27. Write a note of appreciation to the people who remembered you on your birthday
My uncle would send his mom flowers on HIS birthday every year, just to say thank you for giving him life and being such a good mom. His sweet mother has passed on now, but being a mom myself now, I know how special that is. I am sure she loved that act of kindness. What a wonderful way to show your love to YOUR mom, on YOUR birthday! He has inspired me to do something for my mom every year from now on.
One of my favorite quotes that I try to live by is, “She who leaves a trail of glitter…is never forgotten!”
I hope as each of our birthday’s approach this year
I am so grateful to be a little older today! I am excited to celebrate and to spend time with the people that I love so much! I hope we all will remember to make a memory and to find joy in the journey of life. Here is to 27… I hope it feels like heaven!
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