Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread - Proverbs 30:8

Monday, October 14, 2013


We celebrated a birthday here over the weekend, so it seems timely to talk about celebrations. I certainly am not advocating for celebrating less - but instead will be talking about getting more celebration with less hoopla.

So far for our daughters' birthdays, we have kept things simple. Very simple. No big parties - just small family celebrations (and by family I mean the four of us unless a grandparent comes to town).

Why no big parties?
  • The easiest answer is that we live far from family and moved around a lot during the first 5 years of their lives, so we didn't have a lot of friends.
  • I think throwing 1 and 2 year olds big, elaborate parties with lots of guests and gifts is the first step to creating expectations in our kids. At 1 and 2 they are not aware of what's going on or able to appreciate why this is happening. By 3 or 4 they will remember and expect - lots of food, lots of decorations, lots of people and lots of gifts.
  • I've seen friends get completely caught up in planning and decorating big themed parties every year. It's time-consuming and the focus of the celebration gets lost in the preparation. I want to focus on celebrating the life of my child - not planning a party or hosting large numbers of guests.

What do we do?
  • We decorate the house like crazy with balloons, streamers, banners, homemade drawings, etc. the night before. It's often not pretty since we all get involved (everyone but the birthday person!) But it's fun to create special surprises and even more fun to wake up to a decorated house!
  • Our girls design their cake and then decorate it themselves. Our birthday cakes won't win any awards or make beautiful photographs, but my girls LOVE designing their cakes. You can see the most recent creation above.
  • They plan the menu for dinner. Sometimes we go out to eat and other times we stay home. When my oldest daughter was 4 she wanted spaghetti and meatballs so we each got 4 meatballs to eat.
  • Usually we have a special family outing - especially if the birthday falls on a weekend. Our girls have fall and winter birthdays. We've gone to a pumpkin patch, an apple orchard, skiing and hiking.
  • We celebrate once - on the actual birthday.

My tip for keeping celebrations or any gathering you host simple:   Keep the focus on the reason for the gathering, not on the decorations or menu.

At ages 8 and 7, my girls have started asking for parties with friends. We haven't made any decisions about this request, but will likely begin to include a few friends in the celebrations. In the past we have had a friend over for lunch or taken a friend to the aquarium with us. But just one friend each time.

When I was younger I had friend parties every four years - when I was 8, 12 and 16. Maybe we'll do something similar (10, 13, 16). 

What do you have to add to this conversation? I'd love to hear more ideas.

To see all the posts in this series, search by the label less is more or click on THIS PAGE.


  1. I'm just glad to hear I'm not the only one that does this. Though I have had vague feelings of guilt about it...everyone else seems to have parties, after all. But I like your positive approach...focus on the person. I may think over this a bit more and come up with an actual plan for future birthdays instead of just sighing with relief every time that no one expects a big party yet (my oldest is 5 now).

    1. My daughter's birthday was on a Saturday this year, and because of that, I had to miss our women's retreat for church. Still...I was happy to sacrifice that weekend to celebrate her and keep to our family's tradition of keeping things small and simple.

      As we sat down to sing and eat cake, I said aloud..."I love that it's just the four of us. I'm not worried about anyone else and I can fully enjoy this moment and time together as a family. Isn't this fun?" It was my way of pointing out how calm and fun our celebration was.

      My girls have only been to a handful of parties and that's helped lower their expectations. The few we have been to haven't been all that fun because you don't really get to spend much time with the birthday boy or girl - they seem chaotic and loud and crazy.