simple birthdays.


Just like that, both my kids birthdays came and went in the last 2 weeks.  Now I am the proud mama to 6 and 10 (!!) year olds.  Time truly slips through the fingers like water.  I thought it might be fun to share our birthday rituals here, for we keep things simple yet meaningful and always have a wonderful time together.  Naturally, this creates less waste, too, since we are focused on consuming less, and teaching our kids the satisfaction and joy that can come with simple things done well.  (sidenote: for more gift ideas for kids and adults alike, check my zero waste gift guide, which also gives tips for low waste wrapping techniques)

cakes // I always let the kids decide what kind of cake they would enjoy for their birthday, and then go about finding a vegan and hopefully gluten free version (so that I can enjoy too!). This year Carmela chose lemon cake with cream cheese icing, and Vincent chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.  The lemon cake didn’t turn out as great as I would have hoped, so I won’t share the link here.  But, the chocolate cake was excellent, and it was THIS one from Minimalist Baker.  We are still using the same old birthday candles from ages ago.  When they run out I’ll probably just make candles from leftover candle wax.  Plastic free/no sprinkle decorations can look so beautiful- lemon slices, roses + other flowers, grated citrus zest looks beautiful on white frosting, chopped nuts or toasted coconut pressed round the edges, or a favorite tiny figurine sitting on top.


gifts // By now, the people in our lives know our lifestyles and are wonderful at co-operating with us not wanting plastic or more toys.  I also try to emphasize something small, because I don’t want my kids to expect to be flooded with tons of gifts.  Not only is it overwhelming for them (and anyone!), but having fewer things sends the message to take care and love what we do have.  This gratitude and appreciation is so important for me to foster in them.  For Carmela, I had been wanting to update her room, as she had very little and I wanted to give her a more cozy space.  So, I got her a little nightstand which doubles as a small bench or stool, a few cozy pillows, and a new colorful cotton rug to go by her bookshelf to make that a more comfortable spot to sit.  She slept in Vincent’s room that night and it was so magical to see her wake up and go into her newly rearranged room.  We also gift the kids an experience- so somewhere they want to go or something they want to see.  This year, Carmela chose the Exploratorium in San Francisco and we made a special day of it.  For Vincent, a special concert (a full orchestra playing Beatles songs, his fave).  Gifts others gave to them included: a states map puzzle, enamel pin of Bill Nye, various books, gift certificate to the local ice cream shop, bath salts and homemade items.  My kids loved them all and they were ecstatic to receive these little treasures.

rituals // by far the most looked-forward-to aspect of birthdays here, the kids love these repeated rituals that seem to delight them and add comfort knowing they can expect the same thing every year.  These things will be different for every family, but I encourage you to find a little rhythm to your years.

-I watercolor them a special card from scratch and Joel and I write a meaningful note inside, also usually I make a little poem for them.  They love to see what the card is like each year.


-The night before I like to read this traditional little verse:  When I have said my evening prayer, and my clothes are folded on the chair, and mother switches out the light, I’ll still be ___ years old tonight.  But from the very break of day, before the children rise and play, before the darkness turns to gold, tomorrow I’ll be ___ years old.  ___ kisses when I wake, ___ candles on my cake.  note: we aren’t traditionally religious, but we still practice giving gratitude at night before bed for the days gifts, a sort of Universe prayer if you will.  The kids just love this being told to them when they’re tucked in bed on their birthday eve.  Such a sweet little ritual.

-The morning of, we all smother the birthday child with the kisses for their respective age, and make quite a big, loud, dramatic deal of it 😉

-Either while we are lighting the candles on the cake, or while we are eating the cake, we tell the birthday child a detail or memory from each year of their life.  Ie, when you were a baby…., when you were one year old…., when you were two years old…etc.  This I think is their favorite of all.  There is something so special to a child hearing memories and stories straight from a loved ones mouth, especially concerning them.  Sometimes they ask to hear the story of their birth, too.

-birthday crown: when Carmela was tiny, I bought a felt birthday crown from Etsy (so easy to make, too) and they love putting it on on the morning of their birthday.  This one is the closest I could find, though ours has a ribbon instead of elastic.

-the morning after, I let them have a slice of birthday cake for breakfast, which is always the most exciting thing for them, to get to “break the rules” one day!


What are your birthday traditions?  I’d love to know!



9 thoughts on “simple birthdays.

  1. Love your posts so much. My family has a similar tradition in terms of wearing a birthday hat and sitting in a special chair. It really is the simple gifts that oftentimes mean the most.

  2. One birthday tradition in our family that sets us apart is that we ALWAYS give our mom flowers (or a plant) on our own birthday. We remember to celebrate the work she did on our “ birth” day❤️

  3. What lovely birthday celebrations. We celebrate half birthdays as well. We write it on our kitchen calendar with a few colorful designs and then the birthday child gets to choose a special breakfast or dessert for the whole family and we all recognize the official turning of “__ AND A HALF”!

  4. this post has me all warm and fuzzy. What lovely ideas and rituals!Thank you very much for sharing these with us. You are an inspiration to me all the way to Brussels, Belgium! thank you! johana

  5. Simple traditions are so meaningful. I bought a fabric “Happy Birthday” bunting from an indie maker when my oldest turned 1. We now use it for everyone’s birthdays and it brings me so much (bittersweet) joy every time I pull it out.

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