How to Craft a Simple, Meaningful Birthday Tradition

Today, we are talking about tools and tips and stuff like that, and we are going to lean into how to craft a simple, meaningful birthday tradition. 

If you live in the West, if you live in America, if you live in the year 2019, you know that birthdays have become almost the peak consumeristic day. We are a consumer culture, so then, what we put on our birthday is let’s consume 10 times more. Maybe that’ll make us happier. Maybe we’ll feel more celebrated. 

With kids, that means sugar and candy and cake and presents and presents and presents until they start crying because they’re overwhelmed. And, that’s either birthday or Christmas. You only got about two options, right? 

That’s right. 

But, we just resist that mentality strongly. We don’t believe that’s what it should be like. We don’t believe that’s how you should celebrate life and birth and families. But, Jeremy and their family have been doing this a lot longer, so I’d love to hear how you guys do that because you guys have some fun, cool, creative ideas. 

Yeah. So, one way to think about … What is a birthday for? Like Jeff just said, we go into this huge, almost consumer … sugar-filled chaos. It’s like if you aren’t feeding the flesh of your child, then they’re not having a great birthday. 

I think that the best way to think about a birthday is as an opportunity to honor that teammate for what they are contributing to the team. Everyone gets around them and really speaks over them and honors them in that way. And so, that’s a different way to think about it. 

A lot of times, you need a tool for this. And so, there’s a couple tools we’re going to throw out there, one that our family uses, one that Jeff’s family uses. What our family likes to do is during our weekly family meal, every time there’s a birthday, we make sure that that particular family meal is really focusing on that teammate and what they’re contributing to the family team and how we can honor them. 

We do this through birthday toasts. And so, what we’ll do is at the beginning of the meal, I’ll just say, “Hey, guys, we’re celebrating Jackson today. It’s his birthday this week. And so, whenever you want to honor him, just go ahead and ding your glass, and then share with us what is meaningful to you about Jackson.” 

These are such epic dinners because, usually, we have 15 to 20 people at this dinner. Oftentimes, we’ll invite maybe another family over that is close to Jackson, anyone who we think can really honor him if it’s his birthday, plus all of our family and the extended family that comes to our Sabbath dinners. 

All during the meal, people are dinging their glass, saying things to Jackson. And then, we usually toast to him in some way, like if he’s doing an amazing job of being responsible with his time, we say, “To being responsible with your time!” And then, we all … And so, it’s just an hour straight of just fun and laughter and stories and honoring … I don’t know what present or sugar is going to compete with that. 

That’s why I feel like maybe what we need is really good traditions that help us figure out how to honor people. It doesn’t mean we don’t give them presents or figure out other special ways to honor him in those ways, too. It’s just … Man, this is really what I think is most valuable. 

But, yeah, Jeff, what do you guys do on these days first? 

Yeah, I think that’s great, and I love that. I think the word that’s key to what you said, too, is tradition, meaning one of the special things about birthdays is they should compound over the years. I don’t think you should switch it up every year. You want it to hold baggage. You want it to hold weight and just become this thing that gets filled more and more with every kid and with every parent as the family progresses, because then it just becomes so, so rich, the more you add onto that. 

We do two quick things with our birthdays. We have toddlers, but one we’re just starting now that they’re probably just at the right age, this last year or two, at least Kinsley … And, we’ve actually done this longer with adults. We do it in our community and started it in our community, and we do it with me and Alyssa on our birthdays.

It’s called the birthday hot seat, where basically the person that gets … basically, exactly what you said. Very similar to the toast, where you just get put on the hot seat, and basically, we then have to all go around and just share things we appreciate about that person, things we’re thankful for, for that person, maybe a quick story that reminds us of how brave they are, courageous they are, kind they are … and just really share. 

I don’t think we do … We’re not very good in our culture of being a culture of honor. We’re not very good in our culture of being a culture of knowing how to just speak, looking in someone eyes, like an actual, good compliment, without that person saying, “Oh, no thanks,” or “No, whatever.” Where both people get it right, where someone just says it seriously and the other person receives it in love, is a dynamic that doesn’t happen very often. And so, we really leaned it into that, on birthdays. 

Another one we do, too, is we do get gifts, of course, and there is special things here and there. But, we very much tip the scales towards experiences over gifts because I think an experience can be enjoyed by the whole family, celebrating the teammate, the one individual, when a gift is usually just for the individual.

So, this last example we just did with Kannon a couple weeks ago is he loves cars. So, I hit up my buddy who works at a car dealership. He’s the man, and he’s high up, so he can do whatever he wants. And, he basically loaned us a Jeep … really nice, lifted, all super crazy awesome one that Kannon thought was the best thing in the world because it looked like a big version of a Hot Wheel … and, we just drove around Maui for a whole day.

It was this fun thing of Kannon got this special Jeep that he really likes, that he always points out and talks about. We got that for him, and we drove around all day in it. So, there was really no … That was the gift, for us to hang out as a family and just have fun, and maybe stop at some ice cream places and stop at the beach and stuff like that. 

So, that’s just some ideas. What I think that comes down to, by the way, too, is then leaning into, for lack of a better term, the clichéd term, the love language of your kid. I think leaning into how do they actually feel? And, ask them. 

I think a lot of times, too, when we do traditions and stuff, we don’t ask, “What do you love? What would you like to do? What makes you feel appreciated? If you can have a day that you get to pick, where we all hang out, but you get to pick what we do, what would that look like?” I think leaning into all of that can create a really, really beautiful experience. 

And then, yeah, already in our house, with toddlers, birthdays have become a really big deal, not even because of us, but because they enjoy it so much now, where they love it, they look forward to it, they talk about it for months, and it’s not usually about what present they’re going to get. I think that’s really cool and really special, and you do see the difference in how that resists the consumeristic ideal and mentality.

So, that’s we would encourage you with, guys, today. What would it look like to just turn our culture’s view of birthdays on its head? Be a culture of honor. Be a culture of celebrating your kids, celebrating each other, and living in love with that.

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