Frugal Living

Simple, Meaningful Birthdays


Birthdays can be such sweet and special occasions. 
It's fun to make someone feel spoiled and special. 
But, if we're not careful. they can become overly stressful and get expensive really quick. 

Now, I love birthdays as much as the next person, probably even more. Growing up, our family treated birthdays as an exciting family celebration, finding ways to make the day really special for the birthday person while not needing to break the bank or cause any extra wrinkles. We never really had themed parties and never once went into the party room at McDonalds, but I have such sweet memories of birthdays growing up that I wouldn't trade them for a moment. Here are some of the things that we did as a family to make birthdays special:

Birthday Lists

One of my personal favorites, this tradition helped to generate excitement and anticipation weeks before the big dale. One month before our birthdays, us kids were allowed to write down a list of things that we would like to receive as presents and put the list up on the fridge for the family to see. It was always expected that we would not receive all of the things that we wrote down, but it was so exciting thinking of things to write and it was very useful for when grandparents asked for gift ideas.

One Birthday at a Time Rule

Except for birthday lists, we were not allowed to talk about our birthdays until after the  person before us had had their birthday. So if our sister's birthday is on the 12th of April and our birthday is the 3rd of May, we weren't allowed to talk about our birthday until the 13th of April. This helped to make each person's birthday special and not have one birthday detract from another. We didn't have any family members with shared birthdays, so this might be worked different if that was the case.

Choice of Birthday Cake Design

Special birthday cakes are a big thing to kids, at least they were to us. Notice I said special, not fancy. Not to say that birthday cakes can't be fancy, but even the very simplest of cakes can be super special when it is done with love and Dad and Mum get excited about it.

Choice of Meal for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

As a kid, deciding on which meals to have on your birthday took almost as long as writing your birthday list. Breakfasts were normally fairly simple in our house, so special breakfasts often included homemade pancakes with maple syrup and whipped cream, bacon and eggs or croissants with chicken cheese and pineapple. Lunches weren't always served on birthdays as, between a big breakfast in the morning and birthday cake in the afternoon, we were pretty full. Special dinners were often things like nachos, pizza, fish and chips or baked spuds. These were normally followed by a favourite dessert or leftover birthday cake.

Birthday Chocolates

We didn't tend to buy a lot of chocolates or lollies when we were kids. Still don't. But, for birthdays, we got to choose one kind of chocolates as a treat. These would be put next to our
plates at breakfast and slowly savored while we listened to Dad read the bible.

Favorite Bible Passage

Every morning, Dad would read the bible after breakfast. Normally we would read through the bible from beginning to end and just read a chapter from where ever we were up to. But on birthdays, the birthday person got to choose the spot we read from on that day. If Dad had to be away at work on the day of the birthday, we would have the special reading after dinner instead.

Present Time

After the bible reading, it was a natural progression into present time, one of the most exciting parts of the day, if I do say so myself. The birthday person would sit on their specially decorated birthday chair and the rest of the family would gather round to sing 'Happy Birthday'. Then, starting with the youngest, each family member would take turns to give presents to the birthday person. When we were younger, our presents were often an assortment of less expensive items that were fascinating to a kid, like marbles, necklaces, buckets and spades, swimming toys and little jewelry boxes. As we got older, presents became fewer and more specific. Wrapping paper was almost always recycled from previous birthdays and sometimes we made our own wrapping paper out of newspaper.

Freedom from Chores

After present time had finished, the family started chores and the morning cleanup. The birthday person was excused from all chores on their birthday. This allowed the person some time to look over and explore their presents by themselves before trying them out with the rest of the family and it is always nice to have the day off every now and then.

Simple and Classic Decorations

Decorations were always put up in the living room the night before the birthday, with the birthday person going to bed early so that they are a surprise. These decorations were often simple things like balloons and streamers. Over the years, we started to make and buy decorations that could be used over and over again like fairy lights and different types of bunting. As part of the decorating, a chair was also done up special for the birthday person to sit on at the table. As a kid, it was always to fun to get up early on the morning of your birthday to see all the decorations in the living room.

Birthday Party with Extended Family

When we were younger, most of the extended family had kids in public school and so couldn't come to parties until after school, so most of our parties were in the afternoon. Us kids would wait out at the gate for them to arrive. Once they had arrived, we would have great fun playing classic party games like musical statues, pinatas, treasure hunts and pass the parcel. For snacks we would have birthday cake and other special foods like chips, biscuits and chocolate crackles. We didn't have a special theme and didn't give out favors, but we had a great just having fun together. All the cousins look back fondly on those birthday parties all together. 

Birthdays can be so much fun and every family has a different way of making them special. When it comes down to it, a birthday is a day to celebrate God's gift of the birthday person to us and to help them remember that they are loved and special. In the end, specialness is an attitude. What are some of the ways that your family makes birthdays special?

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  1. It sounds like your family really knows how to make a birthday special! Thanks for sharing on Strangers & Pilgrims.

  2. I am so glad that you liked the post. Writing this post brought back so many good memories for me.



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