Birthday Trends

Growing up, most of the birthday parties I went to were classic style: ice cream, cake and pin-the-tail on the donkey variations. Since then, they’ve morphed into major all-out themed events….pirate and medieval extravaganzas that involve walking the plank for a prize and even the use of an actual catapult—built specifically for party-goers entertainment. My nieces had an Alice In Wonderland, Mad Hatter tea party in full costume. Serious stuff.

New Trend: Themes and costumes are still a full-on go, but the GIFTS are altering in some cases. Recently, I’ve heard about kids asking guests to donate to a chosen cause rather than bring a gift. Pretty big stuff for kids, I think. Talk about instilling the ‘better to give than receive’ and socially responsible mindset early!

But, the question you might ask…as I did, initially, is ‘How could kids reach this decision without some serious heavy-handedness from parents? The answer, from what I’ve seen, has a lot to do with kids already being involved in a cause. Then, I can understand how this donation-in-place-of-gift idea happens. For example, the non-profit, Water Missions International, headquartered here in Charleston, has an annual walk where people simulate the several mile trek for water, women and children in developing countries have to do daily. Lots of kids do this annual walk with their parents. It’s a cause that has become tangible to them.  Kids, too, enjoy being a part of something bigger than themselves. They can feel it, just as we do.

As always, there’s a balance to be had. No need to give up birthday gifts for any and all birthdays. But can’t wait to see what some of these civic-minded kids do later on in life!

Time out for nostalgic moments: Birthday party I loved:

1)   As a kid: Friend’s mom made individual cakes for EACH person. Mine was Jiminy Cricket.

2)   As an adult: My husband’s 40th. His name’s Jack and his birthday is Halloween. We had a ‘Just Jack’ party where everyone had to dress up as something ‘Jack’. Think about it. You’ll see. There are a lot of options and you’ll find you keep coming up with more. (I was Jack Frost, but the most original costume of the night was the hijacker, hands-down.)

What are some of your favorite birthday party memories? What do you think of kids asking for donations instead of gifts?


9 comments on “Birthday Trends

  1. What a great idea for kids to really understand the act of giving. It’s especially important nowadays when the trend with reality TV, such as MTV’s “My Sweet 16,” highlights extravagant parties where the teenager winds up with some type of flashy car at the end – to the envy of all of her friends nonetheless.

    By the way, the “Jack” party was great. I especially enjoyed the creativity behind the Jack and the Beanstock.

  2. Parents and adults have such a great amount of influence over kids whether they are their children or not. The children (and/or young adults) are always watching us and we have many great opportunities to teach them about thinking of others. We also must give them a good example and walk the talk…

    I was also fortunate enough to be invited to that “Jack” party and it was “unexpectedly” one of the best I have been to. There are a lot of creative people out there and many different ways to be a “jack”!

  3. My daughter has participated in several birthday parties where donations were requested rather than a gift. This spurred her on to research, pitch to her fellow classmates and then drive towards a more than $3500 donation to this same charity! Parents were amazed at what the kids were able to accomplish.

    Water Missions is a wonderful charity. We too enjoyed the walk!

    • That’s excellent. Impressive that your daughter did the research and a class presentation to tell other kids about what’s going on in the world and to get them involved.

  4. So own daughter has decided she’ll be donating gifts next year or asking for cash to donate, and she has never been more excited for a birthday to come (she’s 9 now). Love this post.

  5. Hi Marney!

    Wonderful post! The party for your husband sounds like a blast. I am ALL in for anything themed. 🙂 And you are right; providing an ambiguous topic like “Just Jack” gives people the ability to be creative, while not leaving a plethora of overwhelming possibilities. For my 21st birthday, my husband threw me a 80’s party, and went to the trouble of buying me a lil’ sparkly antiquated number off Craigslist. I loved it! We had those snap-bands and drank blue cosmos. Too fun. 🙂

    For 10 years, I raised other people’s children. During my time as a nanny, I learned that teaching children this sort of backward thinking must begin somewhat early. And it must be implemented in other areas, too. Expecting a child to want to be generous at his birthday is ridiculous if he/she isn’t in any other area of their life. Ingraining this sort of mentality young, gives them a chance to think of generosity and selflessness on their own, without the imperious hand of mom and dad. Instead of dropping off donations alone, take your child with you and show them how their toys bring joy to other children. Have them sponsor a child and write him letters. There are so many easy ways, but it does take work and time, and those are things not everyone is willing to be generous with. It starts at the top and trickles down.


    • Hi Cara! Thanks for stopping by! The party you had sounds like a lot of fun. Everybody gets into theme parties…and I think maybe that’s because you get to be creative and silly, rather than so concentrated on being put together, cool and stylish. To me, there’s a looser, more relaxed feel, with everyone looking forward to seeing how everybody chooses to interpret the theme.

      I’m sure you learned a ton during your years as a nanny. I agree that it often takes conscious effort to instill a giving spirit in children. Some do have it naturally, but in most of us, it needs to be nurtured as well. I remember at church, hearing this one parent ask her child what one specific thing they should do for someone else this week. It’s really stuck with me. What a way to get children used to thinking about others. Like you said, there are so many ways. But it takes conscious effort.


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