The week that this episode premieres is BIRTHDAY WEEK in the Soler household. My daughter’s, mine, and my son’s birthdays are all within a 5 day span. Do you know what month is the most popular birthday month? Based on what I said about BIRTHDAY WEEK earlier, you would be right if you guessed September. According to data gathered about births in the US from 1994 to 2014, the most common birth dates in the US are September 9, 12, and 19th. Nine out of ten of the most common birth dates fall in September as well.
Birthdays are one of few things that we allll have.
Whether you know the date/time or were adopted and may not have all of the information or otherwise
It’s your holiday. Your “day of you”
It’s a day to celebrate all you’ve been through in the last year.
It’s a day to celebrate opportunities and experiences to come
So where did the idea of birthdays, much less celebrating them, even come from?
Obviously ancient humans didn’t know what day it was or how to track them until the advent of the calendar and an organization and meaning of time and dates.
Ancient Egyptians are thought to have first originated the idea of birthdays. A pharaoh that was crowned a god was considered “birthed.”
Both Pagans and Greeks believed that spirits were present around a person’s birth. Pagans in particular thought that spells of good and evil were at play during a birthday. Maybe that’s where the tradition of making a wish comes from.
Not everyone necessarily shares the same types of traditions. My frame of reference, and the focus of this episode, is American traditions but there are so many beautiful traditions celebrated by other cultures globally. I encourage you to learn about them. Maybe even find some you might want to incorporate into your own traditions. Because those are not in my wheelhouse of lived experiences, I will leave that study to you for extra credit.
The yummiest tradition that first comes to mind is the birthday cake. Ancient Romans celebrated turning 50 years old with a special cake made of wheat flour, olive oil, grated cheese, and honey. These were given only to males (female birthdays were not celebrated until about the 12th century) by the Roman government.
In the late 18th century, Kinderfeste (a party similar to our traditions today) was celebrated in Germany and bakers there are credited with creating birthday cakes as we know them.
So why put candles in cakes? The ancient Greeks celebrated the moon goddess Artemis by offering her cakes with candles on top as a symbol of the glowing moon. Blowing out the candles was a signal of sending a prayer or a message to the gods. This wasn’t for a celebration of Artemis’ birthday but candles eventually found their way to the top of birthday cakes.
Special breakfast or dinner
Make your own traditions
Ep. 10: So why not… create traditions that drive connection? (with Mitzi Kemp)
Best birthday discounts
This is when not taking the time to unsubscribe from all of those store and restaurant emails may just pay off. When the first day of September rolls around, I start getting a steady stream of discounts and free offers in my inbox.
Almost any big corporate chain of retailers and restaurants offer some kind of discount or free perk for signing up for their loyalty program. Some of my favorites: Anthropologie offers a discount during your birthday month, Auntie Anne’s offers a free pretzel on your birthday, you can get a free bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cake, and a free cupcake from Sprinkles cupcakes. There are limitless options and I’ll link a big list from The Penny Hoarder of birthday freebies in the show notes.
Gifts of experience
-for a milestone birthday
-or instead of a birthday party (My kids are turning 5 and 7 and they’ve only had a couple of birthday parties each. We usually end up meeting my parents somewhere and doing something all together. We love to travel and we have made so many memories of spending time together and celebrating our birthdays during our combined birthday week.)
-Disney birthday trip for Julio
-whatever lights you up: a movie or a play, concert, sporting event, vacation or a theme park, exhibit, painting class, a day at the beach, a day at the park
-skipping school for kids
This is not a party planning episode. There are a lot of ways to throw a good party. I really like the planning and decorating parts of throwing a party. I have done three birthday parties since being a parent: Izzy turns uno, a combined trash truck and Princess Jasmine party, and a Disneyland at home party (complete with a train, Disney snacks, and a handmade Disneyland sign). There can be a lot of fun opportunities to be creative with party planning. It’s a blank slate that you can do so much with and for so many varying budgets too.
But there are a lot of people that don’t love throwing parties. It can be really draining to plan and organize and figure out the logistics and clean up afterward. I think the best way to throw a party is to be very intentional with how you want the guests and the recipient of the birthday party to feel, what you want them to take away, and what you hope they remember. Go all out with the decorations and food and games or don’t if that sounds too daunting.
And if it’s your birthday, throw your own party! Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Or if the thought of planning, prepping, and cleaning up afterward, maybe invite a friend out for lunch.
At first, that might seem selfish and conceited to some people. If someone invited you to a party or out to lunch, would you think it’s weird?
Spend your day doing what you want and being with the people you love.
Or don’t! If you need a day to yourself and some alone time, you do you!
To focus on the meaning you give to birthdays…
Write down one thing you’ve learned/enjoyed/experienced for each year of your age.
Additive or start from scratch
A memory from each specific year
(Or do it for your partner—or things you love and appreciate about them or favorite memories together)
Having a physical calendar with birthdays, anniversaries, etc—and giving as gifts
We don’t do “shoulds” around here but you should celebrate your birthday.
If birthdays haven’t gone your way in the past, decide what you want to do for the future. If you’re in a relationship and might be bothered by them not doing exactly what you would like, then tell them exactly what you would like. Or tell them you want to be surprised and not have to plan anything. Those can be fun birthdays too.
Birthdays should be celebrated.
Your now and your future should be celebrated.
A Birthday is a new beginning –
A birthday is the first day of another lovely year,
A year of new tomorrows that is shining, bright and clear,
A year of possibilities as endless as the sky, and a chance to meet the challenges in everything you try.
My birthday wish for you is to make your next birthday count. To find a way to spend your day enjoying those you love, experience what lights you up brighter than any candle, by remembering to practice gratitude, and to look forward to a future of possibilities.
As always, I hope you can use these ideas as tipping off points to channel the ambition, curiosity, and desire to create the life you want to live. Thanks so much for listening. Our time is so important and I am so appreciative that you spent some of it with me.