My mother taught me a lesson about family birthdays being a big deal (see "A Special Birthday Cake" in my January 2009 blogs for an example of her giving). Once I had a family of my own, I continued that tradition. The anniversary of a person's birth should be a cause for celebration, tributes and lots of good food, and this is never more important than now, when our society seems to be so focused on the negative aspects of life.
I don't think that "big deal" necessarily means spending a lot of money. I know it means more to me, and members of our family, just to have an hour or two targeted especially for that person. Not to say that we don't like getting gifts, but it isn't about that, or a fancy dinner out, or a huge party with friends. No, it is about letting the birthday person know they are loved and cared about because everyone took time from their busy schedules - and everyone is busy to the max these days - to create a special memory.
In the past several weeks, we've done that three times - each celebration unique to the celebrant, and each definitely worth the effort. The first recipient was our son, Sean. His day was marked with a dinner at our house, and the next night, his wife gave him a small party, complete with birthday pie (apple crumb - his special request each year). The following week, our middle grandson, Christopher, turned 12 and got a birthday pie (chocolate - also his request) which we ate on the afternoon of his day. Since only his mother, brother and I were able to be there for that, and the rest of the family felt bad because they were all working, I cooked a dinner the next night when we could all be together to sing to him (over a cake this time). And the following day I took him shopping for new clothes (much more fun for a kid his age than opening up a gift of clothes that he doesn't like). So, both those "big deals" resulted in more than one day of birthday observance.
This week it was my husband's turn to be the center of attention, and I spent the entire day in preparation. R.J. is a big kid when it comes to his birthday, and this was a milestone one for him which made it even more important. Since our funds are stretched just now, I had to get inventive, and was proud of what I accomplished, staying within my budget. I shopped for the items for dinner, decorated his cake (his favorite - yellow cake with chocolate icing), set the table with special linens, china and crystal that have passed down in the family, and was even able to wrap up several small gifts. The smile on his face, the joy of the family as we all sat at the meal, watching him blow out his candles and open his presents was more than worth all the labor I'd expended. Yes, it meant I didn't write that day, or do any of the hundred other chores that awaited me on my desk, in my house or on my to-do list. Who cares? The day was his and, when I collapsed in bed that night, I felt as rewarded as he did.
Maybe that's what my mother wanted me to learn about spending the hours to make a big deal out of a birthday. I tend to think that the people who don't want to celebrate their birthdays, who moan and groan about getting older instead of enjoying the triumph of starting another year, are those who never had "their day" made special every year. It IS important. If you love someone, any excuse to make them feel special is an opportunity to share love. Birthdays are an annual song and dance opportunity; don't let them go by unnoticed.