Before I begin, let me introduce you to my daughters, Frannie and Maggie. If you’re someone who knows me personally, this will likely confuse you a little, but I have enough strangers reading my blog now that I am following the lead of several other bloggers and assigning pseudonyms to my girls. The names do have some significance, but it would sort of spoil the point of the anonymity if I explained them.

It took me a while to decide exactly how I wanted to handle the name issue, but I am tired of saying “my oldest” and “my youngest”…especially when I know that gramatically, since there are only two of them, it should be “my older” and “my younger”, which really don’t flow. Okay, now that we have that out of the way…

Frannie will be four next month, so I’ve been thinking about her big day, and about birthday traditions in general. In our family, we have always done this really original thing where we get a cake, and put candles in it representing the number of years being celebrated, and then we light the candles, and sing a song… how long did I have you going for? I actually would love to start a cool new tradition with my girls — preferably something that can take the emphasis off gifts — so I’m hoping for some reader suggestions!

Growing up, choosing the meal (mom/my brother) or restaurant (dad/me) was always part of the birthday ritual. We have kept this up, except now with growing families restaurant meals are no longer a viable option.

As a child, one of my gifts would always be what I referred to as a “Birthday Girl” (but learned today that the proper name is “Enesco Growing Up Girl” – see photo). Actually, I think the first one I got was number 8 or 9, but then I decided I wanted to collect the rest, so I received them as random gifts. Kind of unusual for a 12 year old to ask Santa for a figurine of a 3 year old girl, but I wanted to complete the collection. Half my set is blonde and half brunette, which may have been a predictor of how I would spend my adult life. (Note: so far brunette is in the lead.)

Anyway, back to the Birthday Girls. Once Frannie was born, I put the baby figurine in her room, and each year, as she sleeps the night before her birthday, the next one goes in. After Maggie was born, I started moving the figurines over as she hit each age. I realize I could have just purchased her a set of her own, but oh well. I figure they can keep passing them along to the next generation of girls in the same way. (Is it weird that my kids haven’t even started school yet, but I’m already really hoping that someday I’ll be a Grandma?)

There are some neat birthday ideas  for different cultures at, but I’m pretty sure my two little Irish girls wouldn’t be interested in adopting the tradition of being turned over and bumped on their head enough times to represent their age…plus one for good luck!

Frannie’s celebration this year will be a simple affair: a grandparents/godparents dinner, which will include four cousins, and then one special outing and sleepover with her cousin/best friend. The cake will be Fancy Nancy (more on her in a future post) and the “loot bags” (which have taken on a life of their own at children’s parties) consist of a hand-picked book from Scholastic and a box of Smarties.

I have a wonderful colleague who is the absolute queen of little girls’ birthdays, and someday I will twist her arm to help me with a post on the topic, but I’d rather wait until after my daughers’ special days pass. Too much pressure to live up to her example.

So, what do you do to celebrate your kids’ birthdays? I’d love to hear your ideas!

8 comments on “Birthday Traditions (oh, and my daughers’ pseudonyms)”

  1. Hi there Kate

    While here I have three boys to plan party's for. We let them invite 4 friends and we go somewhere. This year for my 8 yr. olds party we took them Rock climbing and they loved it. For our now 6 yr. old we went as a family to Medieval times in Toronto and just had a little party at home with his friends they made pizza, ice cream sundays, pinta and that is what I use to make the loot bags up with. They had a snowball fight outside and made snow forts. For our little one turning 1 in a few weeks we will just have a family party.

    In the past some of the things we have done are play center. dinner and a movie, movie night and made it a sleepover. And we had come drive a tractor and atv party too.

  2. Thanks for the ideas, Pam! I doubt my girls would be too interested in starting a "drive a tractor" party tradition, but I like the idea of going somewhere with just a few friends, as well as the low-key pizza and ice cream plan. I appreciate your input!

  3. With all of our many birthdays in the house we have traditions. They get to choose their birthday meal. Whatever they want. They get four presents usually each. They are only allowed to open one in the morning. Their biggest is saved til after the cake. They get to choose what cake they want as well. Something I want to start is a birthday chair cover. I got this idea from a friend. It is made out of felt. You can add and take off whatever you wish for each individual child. Of course I have yet to do it but have all the materials 🙂

  4. Ok…so I think I am one of those people who go a little overboard with my children's birthdays! I feel that they only get a birthday once a year and why not make it a big deal! I admit that I think of birthday party ideas all the time and plan far in advance! I, myself, love my birthday and I realize that I am probably creating little "birthday" monsters with my children but…if this is one of my only bad habits then I think I am ok! Don't get me wrong I still teach my children all the important aspects of gift giving, hosting and making her friends feel welcome etc. etc. I am very frugal and look for themed items to go on sale so I don't feel like I spend a lavish amount of money! When it is all said and done, I love birthday parties and it is something we all look forward to!
    P.S. Love your blog Kate and still can't figure out how you balance everything!

  5. I have to agree with the above, Birthday's have always been (and likely will always be) a big deal to me. It isn't just a day either it turns into a week event that I plan months ahead of time. I do feel that perhaps my oldest gets more attention, because I have a full 3 months prior to her birthday with nothing else to plan for and then my middle childs birthday is 5 weeks later and my youngest is 8 days before Christmas. I think the idea of traditon is great and I look forward to reading more on the topic. Anything to make all of the Children feel special and equal (because I know as they grow older this is going to become a bigger deal) A great place to get loot bag things and decorations is Miko Toy warehouse in Markham books and writing paper sets… for $1 but it is only open from Sept-December. My oldest turns 8 on Sat so we are having a Girls Rock party on Friday with the girls in her class. Air bands, coloured hair spray and makeup, make your own pizza's (with some great little ceasar's personal pan pizza kits lol) and a purple gutair cake. I think everyone (including me) should have a blast!

  6. I agree, the Samko-Miko warehouse is amazing. The one thing I find is that they usually have last year's popular Barbie, etc., and not the newer items, but up until now my girls have been too young to notice that they weren't getting the "new releases". For things like books, games, and crafts, this isn't a concern anyway.

    My daughter heard me talking about the Girls Rock idea above, and now she has requested that for her 5th birthday party. Fortunately I have 360 days to plan for that one!

  7. We have such a large family that birthdays can take on a life of their own if we are not careful. Our extended family has an unwritten rule that we all gather to celebrate first birthdays, then after that it may vary. This year we had the great idea of having a party at the playground at the school in late August for our three year old twin boys' party. It was a hit. Since most of their little cousins are under 5 years old, the slide and swings were well used. I made each boy a cake (of their own choosing, as I always do). This year we had a frog and a turtle (I am actually quite talented…)! I sliced up a watermelon, had a few bowls of chips, and a large jug of juice. I asked everyone to bring a reusable cup. I brought recycling bins for all the wrapping paper etc., and compost bucket along. Clean up was a snap. By the time we got home, we simply put the recyling bins where they go, dumped the compost and had fun playing with the toys.
    That was for my sons'birthday, my daughter just turned six and we tried our hand at a 'real' birthday party with little girls from her class. My daughter's birthday is in February, so season does pose a challenge. My daughter chose a castle cake (again, I am talented)! I thought that I had planned great activities: decorate-your-own-cupcake; finger knitting (a skill my daughter just picked up); and bead-necklace making. I felt like the three hours were never going to end. Beads were okay, cupcakes lasted about 10 minutes, and the finger knitting was a disaster. I had even rolled up little balls of yard for each child to keep. Ummmm.
    We went outside, did the snow man thing (kids wanted carrots: as if I was out of carrots on THAT day)! By the time Moms and Dads arrive to pick up the little ladies, I was pretty sure that was our first and last class party. You have to be so gentle with strangers' children. If it were my nieces/nephews I know their personalities and know whether or not they are having fun. Some of these little dolls had no problem expressing their boredom! Eek. Just not cut out for it.
    As a tradition, we always chose our own meal. My daughter and I always want chinese take-out!
    As for gifts, we try to keep it to one or two nice things. Simple Grandma often sneaks a few extras for the sibling who is not celebrating…
    the dinosaurs our boys got for their sister's birthday were a huge hit! Its always a challenge: trying to let them enjoy the day without spoiling them rotten!! My favourite gift as a child was having my bicylce decorate with streamers, basket and a bell. Simple (I already had the bike), but I loved it.

  8. Thanks for all of your thoughts, Sally. I would imagine birthday celebrations for twins require a little more thought…you want to make it meaningful for both of them, but without doubling your work! I have a couple of friends who have children born on the same date, but different years, so that also requires some strategic planning to make both kids feel special.

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