Growing up, my birthday was a non-event until I was about 9. Then my father began taking me into the big city by deluxe coach bus for a day (which often meant I was able to skip school!). We’d walk the city, looking at the sights, learning the history of this building and that and would then top the day with a late lunch or dinner somewhere very special. This tradition was kept no matter what; when I had a cast on my ankle from two surgeries I still walked over town and even during major snowstorms out we went. Nothing could take away from my “special” day, which never involved cake or presents but moments shared with someone I loved in a city I found magical.
When I worked for other companies, I always took my birthday off – no other holiday did I do this for but my birthday, that was my day. A day I didn’t have to answer to anyone or do anything. I’d always start off with a breakfast out, lots of coffee, followed by a day spent wandering a city and concluded with a dinner out somewhere. I am not really a huge gift person but I am a huge experience person and this is what I crave for my birthday – just the day to do as I please without worry, without guilt, without time lines.
I’ve written how when I turned 30 I didn’t want a traditional party so instead I decided that for each major birthday, I’d blow it out with a huge trip. I booked a trip to France and the last two nights (one of which was my birthday), I booked a beautiful suite at the Henri V in Paris and spent a quiet, but memorable, evening with friends who helped me celebrate.
This year, I’ll be celebrating somewhere in Denmark. I say somewhere because I only have the first three nights planned (two in Copenhagen, followed by a stay with family). I’ll most likely be near Odense as I’d love to spend a little of my birthday in H.C. Andersen’s home because he’s somewhat of a friend and it’s nice to sometimes celebrate with a friend. Speaking of which, this year I will be wandering the city with my Flirty Hair Friend as her birthday is two days before mine (she’ll be 63) and, as a gift to her, am taking her to Denmark with me. The gift of time, the gift of travel, the gift of friendship – these are the best birthday gifts ever. An experience is always one of the best gifts, so off we go.
So many people I meet fear their birthdays and, even more, fear celebrating. But I really think it’s the one day to celebrate yourself (you have to share every other holiday, right?!) and you should. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, it doesn’t have to be symbolic or full of “deep meaning and thought.” But it could be something as simple as giving yourself the day off, or a quiet lunch break at a place you always wanted to try, or a plane ticket to visit someone you love, a little cupcake (my favourite!), the best bouquet you can buy, an expensive, impractical book you love (Tricia Guild Pattern for me!) or that pair of slippers that you wanted.
Everyone is so busy these days, everyone is overwhelmed, overworked, under-dreamed that I think instead of gifts that have no meaning, we should give the gift of experience/time to one another and to ourselves. Think of making something for someone (your time you’re giving) or taking someone out for cupcakes and coffee (giving an experience) or gift them a massage (giving them time off) or a book on how to do something they love but perhaps don’t do (the gift of dreaming).
I suppose the whole point to this is to make your birthday special in whichever way you can. You might not think it makes a big difference but it does.