Celebrating birthdays isn’t just for the young

Birthdays. Each day thousands of people celebrate their birthdays while some hide the date and try to forget.

When I was growing up, birthdays were the best. Our family tradition was to have birthday cake for breakfast since it was a celebration all day…and sometimes all week/month. As I’ve grown older, I look back on those days with a different perspective.

My birthday celebrations had little to do with the cake (albeit delicious!), the presents (although exciting), or my favorite meal mom would cook (or favorite cocktail I’d drink once I was legal). Instead, it was the joy of being surrounded by friends and family that celebrated and spent time with you.

Now, birthdays have changed. Presents seem unnecessary since I can buy items myself. Cake reminds me that my pants don’t fit. Mom will take me out to dinner, but we have to schedule a time to make that happen. Even friends often have to “rain check” on an outing, and I’ve also been known to find a good night’s rest as the best birthday gift for myself.

I can only imagine how my perspective will continue to change as I grow older.

This moment of clarity shines bright today. My great aunt is celebrating her 90th birthday. She’s a hoot and a half, but we often don’t find time to visit as much as we would like or should.

It’s unintentional, but life has a tendency to be so hectic and busy when we’re younger so that by the time we reach the age where we can slow down and enjoy the people around us, we feel like we’re a burden to them.

For her birthday this year, we’ve asked cousins, aunts, uncles, and extended family to send her a card or a small token. What takes us five minutes to order online or add to our cart at the store will mean a heck of a lot more to her. Add in the bonus of taking her to dinner to celebrate or just spending an hour in her enjoyable company, and everyone is happier. Ultimately, for her, I want her to know that she met this milestone in life with a crowd of loved ones and friends celebrating her…even if we don’t check in on her as much as we should.

More than any other time of year, her birthday is about her and celebrating her today is more important.

Birthdays are momentous occasions and should be honored so we suggest the following:

  1. Think about the most important people in your life.
  2. Pull out your calendar or access the calendar on your phone.
  3. Determine whether their birthdays are marked in your calendar. If not, research and record them (with a reminder).
  4. The next time you’re at a store, browse the card section (because sometimes they’re terrible, let’s be honest) and choose one for each of these people.
  5. Find a safe-but-memorable place to put these cards so you can access them when the birthdays pop up on your calendar.
  6. Send the card before the birthday.
  7. Follow up with a phone call or text…not just the generic “Happy Birthday” that is often used on Facebook.
  8. Make sure that person realizes their birthday is special to you.
  9. Bonus: Choose one person and do something to make sure their birthday is extra, extra special! (I flew out to visit my best friend for her birthday weekend and we made zero plans. Spending time with her and her family was a great thing for our friendship and all she wanted for her birthday.)

If you need the love returned, wait until your birthday. This “pay it forward” attitude just might come back to you!


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