Submitted Date 05/17/2019

Birthdays should be about celebrating the life of your child, not about how much money you spent. There's no need for lavish parties and expensive gifts or any gifts for that matter. We have lost sight of what a birthday symbolizes and feel compelled to spend, spend, spend in order to show our children how much we love them.

Let's take a moment to travel back through time and look at how birthdays got their start and perhaps we'll be able to make a change for the better regarding how we view birthday celebrations.


Brief History of Birthdays

3000 B.C.E. marks the first record of any reference to celebrating a birthday. When an Egyptian became a pharaoh, they were looked upon as a god. Commemorating this event or rebirth, is considered the first known form of birthday celebration. Genesis 40:20 mentions a celebration of the pharaoh's birthday.

Ancient Greeks celebrated their gods and goddesses and to honor the lunar goddess Artemis, they baked round cakes adorned with candles symbolizing the glow of the moon. They held this annual ritual on the 6th day of the 11th month.

Romans are credited with being first to celebrate birthdays of family and friends while governments created holidays to celebrate important and famous citizens. This was for men only of course. Women would have to wait until the 12th century for their party.

Christians first saw birthdays as evil pagan rituals and didn't begin celebrating birthdays until the 4th century when they began to recognize Christmas as the birthday of Jesus.

18th century Germany brought to light Kinderfeste which most closely resembles our modern-day concept of a birthday party. They made cakes and topped them with candles representing the number of years the child has lived and an additional candle for the coming year. Perhaps where the phrase "one to grow on" originated. In addition, the Germans started the tradition of making a wish and blowing the candles out.

The Industrial Revolution (1760-1870) gave way to commoners being able to take part in celebrating with cakes and sweets, once considered luxury items only the wealthy could afford. Now with abundant supplies of inexpensive ingredients and bakeries mass-producing cakes, even the poorest peasant could celebrate in style.


Modern Day Madness

Now it seems birthday parties have become a competition to see who can spend the most money. We've become a society obsessed with huge, expensive parties and exorbitantly expensive gifts. When did a celebration of life become such a costly endeavor?

My husband works in the hotel business and he shared a story with me of just how bad things can get out of control when we use money to show our children how much we love them. It was a sweet sixteen party with a price tag of roughly $10,000, maybe more. The big moment came to unveil the birthday girl's gift from daddy: a brand new BMW Z3 with all the bells and whistles.

And how did our little princess react to this $40,000 present from dear old dad? She went absolutely ballistic, screaming about how she had wanted the Mercedes E-Class, her party was ruined and her dad obviously didn't love her enough to get her what she wanted, and she ended her tantrum by flipping over a table in the party room.


Otherside of Life

Meanwhile, there are families out there who struggle just to make ends meet and as a result, we have less fortunate children being told they are too poor to have birthdays. I recently read a story about a young girl who learned of a classmate who had never had a party.

While there are some religions that don't celebrate birthdays, and that's fine, this particular child had been told his family couldn't afford to give him a party and it broke my heart to think money was the only issue. At just 7 years old, Bella created simple boxes filled with birthday party essentials: cake, frosting, sprinkles, and other party supplies, so that no classmate would ever have to go without a birthday party. These Bella Boxes have made a world of difference for the kids in her school and it is my hope more people will take notice.

I grew up poor most of my life and never were we not able to have a birthday party. I grew up in the days when Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E Cheese parties were all the rage but I never felt like the simple parties we had at home were any less special. My mom always went above and beyond to plan fun, inexpensive parties, and my friends and I always had a great time.

I can't name one gift I received at any of those parties, but what I do remember is how much time my mom spent decorating my homemade cake each year and all the fun games we played, simple times filled with the simple pleasure of spending time with family and friends.

Birthdays should never be based on how much money you spent trying to impress people or as an effort to show your children you love them. They are meant to serve as a reminder that life is a precious gift and each passing year is an opportunity to grow and learn, but more importantly birthdays should be about being with the ones you love on the day they entered your life. Having a birthday party can be done with as little as $10, just ask Bella, she figured it out at the tender age of 7.


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