5 Family Birthday Traditions

You're never too young (or old) to start a new family-related birthday tradition.
You're never too young (or old) to start a new family-related birthday tradition.
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Once you stop telling people you're almost a certain age or you stop adding "and a half" after the number of years you've been alive, birthdays no longer feel special. But it doesn't have to be that way! Thanks to family -- those folks who are always there for you through thick or thin -- birthdays can be an extraordinary affair, regardless what digit you're turning. Whether you're part of a big group with loads of kids or a small, grown-up clan, you're sure to enjoy these kin-related birthday traditions.

The suggestion on the next page is a gift that's guaranteed show your loved ones how much you care. Better still, all you need is a container and paper.


Make a Memory Jar

Whether it's the birthday of your mother, father, spouse or sibling, let your family member know how much you care by making a memory jar. Record some of your favorite memories of you and your sister by jotting down your thoughts and placing them in a container. If you want to make the gift even more special, you can write your memories on slips of pretty stationery, type them on a computer in different fonts or print them on colored paper. Include anything you want: Valuable life lessons she has taught you, qualities you admire or humorous moments the two of you shared.

It can be fun to add the same number of memories as the age of the recipient. If Mom's turning 50 this year, give her 50 thoughtful notes to open. Find an aesthetic container with a lid to house them all. Some ideas include an old-fashioned glass cookie jar, a small basket or a ceramic bowl or vase. Come up with a cache of memories on your own or invite other family members to contribute. Either way, this gift is truly as much fun to create and give as it is to receive.


Plan a Vacation

Sometimes the best family birthday tradition may be giving your loved one time to herself.
Sometimes the best family birthday tradition may be giving your loved one time to herself.
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Sending a family member on a trip for her birthday can be a great gift, and it makes an even better tradition. If Mom needs some alone time, plan to finance an annual weekend of rest and relaxation without the rest of the family. A stay at a spa, a rustic cabin or even a hotel room on the beach where she can take in beautiful views and pamper herself are all good choices.

If quiet time and solitude aren't your mom's speed, however, consider making a trip as an entire family a yearly institution. Gather your siblings or reach out to your extended kin to get everyone together once a year. You can meet up at different locations or stick with a single destination, but either way, these trips will be what your family remembers years from now when they think about the good times.


Create a Book of Memories

Putting together a scrapbook shows how much you care.
Putting together a scrapbook shows how much you care.

Creating a book of memories is a perfect way to honor a family member on his birthday, particularly if he's sentimental. Commemorate him and the time you've shared together in a photo album or scrapbook. Include all sorts of things, from concert tickets and event stubs to photos and sketches or drawings. Even a poem you wrote for Dad (or one of his favorites written by someone else) would make a good entry.

You can organize the book by breaking it up into different chapters, with each chapter representing a year, event or theme. For example, you can devote a section to Dad and his motorcycle. You can stick pictures, receipts, tire impressions or anything else bike-related into that portion of the book, so there will always be a place your father or anyone else can go to relive the fun times he and the rest of the family had on that bike.


Organize a Slideshow or Video Viewing Party

Make your father's (or any other family member's) day feel festive with a slideshow or video party! Throw a viewing party every year and make it a family tradition, or just do it for particularly notable birthdays, like Dad's 60th. Ask your siblings to share photos or video clips with you and include the best ones in your project. They can showcase important events, milestones or accomplishments -- like a retirement party, a trip to Europe or the purchase of a new home -- but don't forget to document your family's daily life. If it's Dad's big day, for example, include shots of him with his friends and family, trips he took, candid solo images and even a few pictures of the two of you washing dishes. A sudsy shot of you both is sure to get some laughs.

This isn't just a gift -- it's an event -- so make an evening of it! Serve popcorn, send out playful invites and give copies of the final product to everyone in the family to keep.


Start a Scavenger Hunt

Finding a picture of someone with a mullet is the perfect activity to include in a scavenger hunt!
Finding a picture of someone with a mullet is the perfect activity to include in a scavenger hunt!

Both children and adults will dig a scavenger hunt! These organized searches can be a fun and competitive way to celebrate a family member's birthday. Simply split everyone into groups and let them name their own teams. Placing a crown on the head of the birthday boy is always fun, and if your party is large enough, creating custom T-shirts ("Mike's 30th Birthday!") can enhance the lighthearted vibe.

Next, distribute a list of items to find around the house or neighborhood (for kids) or out on the town (for adults). Children can hunt for things like candy and dolls, while a more mature crowd could search for a photograph of someone with a mullet or a unibrow. You don't have to actually collect these items; you can take digital photos of the things you find. Whichever team discovers everything on the list and makes it back first wins. Give a prize to the victor, perhaps a gift card or goofy trophy that he'll be allowed to keep until the next year's scavenger hunt.

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  • Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. "Happy Birthday, We'll Sue." Snopes. 2011. (Aug. 10, 2011)http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.asp