A Case for the Simple Birthday Celebration

When I was little, many of my birthdays were celebrated with my brother and my parents. Even when they were no longer a couple, my mom and dad still made it a point to ensure that my earliest memories where filled with family and carrot cake. I hated the carrot cake (except for the carrot on top made of frosting) but I adored them.

Over the years, I discovered how much I enjoyed throwing parties. I loved coming up with creative ideas and attempting to be crafty. Frequent trips to the craft store and last-minute Target runs became my norm — as did pulling all-nighters the evening before, finishing up every last detail, which often included some last-minute idea that was just perfect for the celebration (or so I told myself). The day of, I hurriedly ran around, enlisting my mom for help, starting to put up decorations, delegating tasks to my husband, and usually running out of time to make everything just the way I had envisioned it. When guests arrived, I anxiously made rounds, often never eating until the end or even eating at all. I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to be doing — tending to my guests and stopping long enough to take a family photo by the cake.

Last year, after falling into this routine at Lola’s first birthday — fussing over the details — I realized that I was worried about the wrong details. Thankfully, despite not getting to enjoy a taco from the caterer, I did take time out to sit with my girl and celebrate her special day.

I had become so fixated on creating a picture perfect party that I was missing out on creating those perfectly imperfect memories. The things you experience when you stop fixing flower arrangements or adjusting the banners and sit down and watch and interact with your child. The ones you will miss out on if you’re in the kitchen icing cupcakes because you didn’t want to buy them from the grocery store. Or you’re busy talking to all 70 of your party guests.


Last year’s celebration was beautiful, and I am happy that so many people we loved, and who love us and our sweet girl, were there alongside us. Even so, there’s been a shift in the way that we do celebrations in our family. At least for now. And it feels right for us.

This year, we kept things simple.

I purchased ready made decorations from Target. I never reached for a die-cut, glitter, or glue. There was no cooking or picking up catered food. We ordered a cake and served Lola’s favorite — ice cream. I sat and talked with family and friends — there was only a handful of us, which gave way for meaningful conversation. People helped themselves, and I watched my toddler play and giggle and proclaim that she was “twoooo.”

I will always love a pretty party, but what I love most is getting to celebrate. While I had my share of birthday parties growing up, the best ones weren’t the elaborate celebrations filled with tons of people and decor. They were the ones with my mom and dad and brother. The ones where the four of us wore party hats and I got two new outfits and a toy; and the one when a few friends came over after school and we sat and ate hot dogs and potato chips and played in the backyard.

The simple celebrations. Those allow for memories of moments rather than just stuff.

This weekend, I went to bed with my heart full. And the next day, Lola was still talking about her party. It was more than enough for her.

And as it would turn out, it was enough for me too.

Here’s to simple celebrations and allowing for the most important details to shine — love and laughter.

How do you like to celebrate birthdays in your family?

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