1. Vicki

    The people who were there and the experience itself are all that matter to me in terms of a celebration. My idea of the best “gifts” are those that are highly personal and those that are not even given for a specific celebration. When I see something that I think someone would really enjoy, I buy it and give it to them. It doesn’t have to be a special day – they are special, and that is all that matters.

  2. Wow, we do tend to focus on the material, even from a very young age. I love the fact that in most of the kid’s parties we go to, the presents don’t get opened at the party, but we still tend to ask children “What did you get?” instead of “Did you have a good time?”

    Frankly, my daughter has been more excited about throwing a party for her friends than the presents she’s gotten or even wanted. Her birthday is next month, and she’s mentions where she wants her party at least once a week, but hasn’t mentioned a present she wants yet.

  3. Great questions. I agree that there is an inordinate focus on gifts surrounding celebrations. Pricey outings are also a popular way to celebrate. Your questions are a beautiful way to inquire about a celebration while focusing on the person, not just what they may have received.

  4. This isn’t something I’ve thought about but I couldn’t agree more. I think these habits are formed in childhood, where gifts have primary importance, and we just never evaluate that process as we grow and learn to value the other aspects of celebrating even more. But we definitely should reframe the questions we ask, and the answers we give.

  5. I love how you’ve reframed the question. It must be because I’m more of a do things person than a stuff person, but I’ve always asked, “What did you do?” for pretty much any celebration, weekend, you name it. Which has definitely ruffled some feathers when I showed disinterest in what they received. So that’s the flip side! But I still think it’s a worthy thing you’re suggesting. 😉

  6. Great post! I ask “what did you do?” too. I don’t really care much about the gifts, but I know that’s the highlight for some.

    Our family celebrations focus on a meal (with lots of dessert) and spending time laughing, talking and playing games together.

    • Oh my gosh! The food! How did I forget the food? If you’re not stuffed to the gills, someone in my family is bound to take offense. You can still breathe? You can still button your pants? Eat some more!

  7. The gifts are being with the people you love and having memories to cherish for years to come. Great insights, Penny.

    Last Christmas, Mr. G’s grandmother (who I wrote about recently passing) was staying with his parents. To keep her busy, my mother-in-law gave Nanna little, light chores around the house. Before dinner, Nanna was dozing off on the sofa and my MiL said “Maaa – go set the table”. Nanna got up, started walking towards the dining room, saluted my my MiL and said “Aye-Aye, Captain”. We all broke into fits of laughter. And for the rest of our lives we’ll be imitating Nanna’s “Aye-Aye Captain”.

  8. Belated happy birthday! I usually don’t like getting presents and my family loves food, so we normally eat out or go for a trip to celebrate special occasions. When it comes to asking other people, it’s either ‘What did you do?’ or ‘Do you have plans?’ for me. Sometimes I also ask ‘Did you have cake?!’ because I love cake and I get excited for other people who get to eat cake. Your cake sounds awesome, by the way.

  9. I’ve never commented before…I’m honestly surprised people ask you this! Never in my adult life have I been asked what I got for my birthday. TBH, I find the “So what did you do!” equally daunting, because people expect some big over-the-top party or splurge, and I feel like I’m letting them down with “I ate cake with my family”. when my husband turned 40 a couple years ago, I spent a good amount of time & energy setting up a scavenger hunt in our house and baking my first double layer frosted cake and planning an outing with our little family. And yet people seemed like it was insulting that I didn’t plan him a big party (he’d hate that) or some amazing vacation.

  10. After seeing my nieces’ rooms, which were an explosion of toys with debris so deep you couldn’t see the floor (Shopkins are a thing?!?), we asked them if they’d rather have a full-day adventure with us without a sibling or if they wanted a present to open on holidays. We weren’t sure what they’d say, but they both chose the “special day.” Last year’s events were smashing successes, and we’re taking the older one to the waterpark this month for her birthday. The little one is already planning her special day in November.

    • I adore this idea, Julie! What a fantastic idea. I am positive they will cherish that time with you and those memories forever. Maybe they will even continue the tradition down the road.

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