Tell me your birthday rituals!
September 7, 2018 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I got great answers to my recent related question, so I'm back with a birthday-related edition: Tell me about your favorite rituals or special things you do/have done to mark your birthday. These can be things you do every year or things associated with specific milestone birthdays.

- Walking the Camino in Spain
- Going to your favorite bakery
- Making a list of where you were and what you were doing on every previous year's birthday
- Starting some new habit
- ?????

Little, big, weird, typical—it's all welcome! I'm looking more for life-lesson/spiritual/introspection type of things (along the lines of my previous question), and less for purely celebratory things, but it's all welcome really. Thanks!
posted by aka burlap to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
i take the day off of work every single year. i find it's a nice time to just rest, relax, do my own thing and be able to be at home if it suddenly hits me that i'm getting older.
posted by koroshiya at 10:49 AM on September 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

i hide under the bed and scream into the void

also i have pancakes
posted by poffin boffin at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2018 [25 favorites]

I like to take the day off work too. I always save a vacation day for it. And I do it alone, no kids, no husband. My time. I usually do breakfast out, library, browse through some store (usually something like Homesense/Winners), coffee and treat. Then home to my kids and husband, and mother for dinner out. Or more likely running the kids to sports.

I buy scratch tickets. Used to be the $ amount of my age. But now I'm too old and can't afford to spend that much. Well I could, but my old age has made me more stingy. Or something.
posted by Ftsqg at 11:24 AM on September 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

All-day picnic at the river! Food, books, letting the dogs play on the shore. It’s glorious. My birthday is usually the last reliably warm day in autumn, so I do this every year to mark both the season and the occasion.
posted by mochapickle at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think about what I want to invite in for the coming year and try to spend time doing that, so the activities vary year by year, but the ritual part is the same.
posted by vividvoltage at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

take the day off work. get a pedicure. eat some cake.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:59 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Be offline.
posted by rabidsegue at 12:03 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been taking a selfie on my birthday since before the word "selfie." Now I have 18 years of images of myself on the same day each year.
posted by torridly at 12:07 PM on September 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

take day off (when applicable).
shave head.

one special thing i do for my birthday, all the days of the year that i have the opportunity, is to push back pretty hard (though usually w/o express animosity) on well-meaning coworkers' unfounded conviction that they are entitled to know that date and participate in observing the anniversary.
posted by 20 year lurk at 12:09 PM on September 7, 2018

Echoing taking the day off from work. I use a floating holiday to celebrate Rob Day. I call friend who shares my birthday to wish him a "Happy Our Birthday". Since 2014 I have also taken time out to remember my cat Cotton, the world's friendliest cat, who passed away suddenly the night before my birthday in 2014.
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:09 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I take the day off of work. Also, inspired by Nicholas Nixon's series of portraits of the Brown sisters, I've taken a photo of my face every year for the past 13 or so. Eventually it'll be a nice longitudinal study.
posted by sugarbomb at 12:29 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

(Apologies if this is a repeat) I make a low-class cherry cobbler (pie filling + Jiffy cake mix + butter.) I then watch the video of an old Bollywood song "Happy Birthday Sunita" (BEST MOM-BASED CHOREOGRAPHY EVER) a few times while eating it. No irony here- I genuinely like it! This helps me appreciate being alive this long.
posted by JulesER at 12:33 PM on September 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

I spend some time alone, and go somewhere I haven't gone before. Sometimes this has involved travel to another continent, other times it just meant taking a random journey home from work, walking down streets I hadn't explored.
posted by profreader at 12:38 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mom's family is Chinese and it was considered good luck to eat noodles on your birthday. Long noodles=long life. There's an actual dish called longevity noodles, but my mom would just cook whatever kind of long noodles we wanted. I usually asked for spaghetti. My partner and I have continued this tradition!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:40 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I go to the local cat cafe and stroke a whole bunch of cats.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Drink champagne.
posted by missmary6 at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2018

I've watched the movie Big every year on my birthday for as long as I can remember. I don't know how it started, but I still enjoy it every single time.
posted by anoirmarie at 12:53 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Huh, I guess I'm in the minority in that I love going to work on my birthday. Everyone wishes me a good day and makes a fuss over me, my department partner buys me lunch, but really and truly, the best part is that my high school students ask me how old I am (because they haven't learned yet you shouldn't ask that) and when I tell them, they can't believe it because of how young I look and actually insist on seeing my ID.

(I'm sincerely like a female Keanu Reeves)
posted by NoraCharles at 1:10 PM on September 7, 2018 [8 favorites]

I also take the day off work every year. I usually get a massage. We went to NYC for my 40th and we are at the airport right now waiting to board the plane for my husband's 40th birthday trip to Norway!
posted by misseva at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take the day off from work. Hike a new trail, visit a new National Park, get away from the downtown. Reflect on some of the highs and lows from the last birthday. Return for a nice dinnner. Always have a cake.
posted by brent at 1:18 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take a hike somewhere (often in the Catskills, last year the Olympic Peninsula coast). Eat a good meal after the hike.
posted by kokaku at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Apparently over the last two years a new tradition was born whereby my cousin and I are now going away for weekend trips on/around my birthday, incidentally three weeks before hers. We had Geneva a few years ago, at the time not billed as new tradition, we had London last year and Munich this. Under discussion for next year are numerous places her husband doesn’t want to go to...
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2018

I try really hard to take the day off work (harder no I for me) and wander a town (with SO) I haven't been to for a while. Somewhere with cafes, a bookshops and some unknowns. This year I was busy so we just went locally and found a a new road - Cabbage Tree Road - lots of cabbage trees and big farm hedges ...

...I had to climb a bank and photo a hedge, then lost footing coming back down, according to wife I did a Keanu Reeves faceplant on the road. Spent afternoon in emergency room, well that was different, all okay now. Next time I'll go to the shops again.
posted by unearthed at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I make a theme for the year ahead and make resolutions based on the theme because my birthday is the start of a new year for me. January 1 resolutions are too busy for me.
posted by Ruki at 2:23 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mine was Wednesday. I thought I'd want to do a big thing for this milestone birthday but I did not. My sister made me a cake (which she does every year and it's almost always something different) and my boyfriend makes me a card (which is always something goofy that he rigs up himself with photoshop) and we go out to dinner. I never work on my birthday. I leave a message for the Facebook Happy Birthday Machine in the morning and usually at the end of the day I go through and read people's comments all before I go to bed.
posted by jessamyn at 2:24 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mrs Molerats and I have low key but very nice birthdays every year!

Hers is in winter, so we are usually extra cozy. I make her the same favorite winter meal every year, chicken noodle soup all from scratch. I make her a homemade, surprise cake every year with different flavors. This started out as just a fun little surprise of her favorite flavor (butter brickle), but I've since branched out into making some really weird cakes (bubble gum!) Even if you're single, I think it'd be fun to make a wacky cake for yourself.

Sometimes we make silly handmade party decor at home. Neither of us is crafty, at all. This year I printed a bunch of pictures of animals wearing party hats and just taped them up around the house. There are otters wearing party hats in our shower!
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:07 PM on September 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

I always take the day off of work and treat myself to a great breakfast and a fantastic dinner. Also, I'll usually get a massage, go hiking, to the movies, the beach or a museum. I might treat myself to an expensive gift or a really nice bottle of scotch or take a trip somewhere.

Take time to appreciate and be grateful about the positive things (people, experiences, etc.) that have happened in your life.

It's a day to celebrate your existence. Do whatever you want that makes you happy to be here.
posted by cwarmy at 3:25 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I eat whatever I want and do whatever I want. This usually involves some kind of shopping (a rare treat for me since I have so little money to spare), though it might involve some sort of craft project such as making myself a new piece of jewelry or visiting an art or museum exhibit. Sometimes I buy myself a book that I've been longing to read ahead of time, and then save it for my birthday. I'd love to get a massage and the like but I can't afford such a thing and usually just go for a haircut -- I only get my hair cut every six months these days so that's kind of special. In the evening I re-watch a favourite movie that stars the actor I have such a crush on and that I only let myself see once a year.
posted by orange swan at 3:27 PM on September 7, 2018

I am the cake baker in my circle of friends, so when my birthday rolls around I am left cakeless. I'm not mad about it, but damn, I want cake too!

So for the last 4 or 5 years, I've started making my own birthday cake. Because it's just for me (plus anyone around who wants some) I get to go all out and make whatever ridiculous combination with whatever decoration I want because if it sucks, it doesn't really matter. This year's one did sort of suck but it was still fun, and I got to experiment with some techniques I've been wanting to try for a while. They usually end up very child-like, because I never get to make those sorts of cakes for my [definitely more elegant than me] friends. Plus it's a good excuse to buy myself baking tools that I've been wanting.

Also, it's not really an unusual tradition but every year I pick a new restaurant that I want to try and my boyfriend takes me and pays without question, even if he thinks he'll hate it. Of course, I aim for something he won't hate but it's a great opportunity to try something a bit weird and not catch any shit for it, hah.
posted by BeeJiddy at 3:41 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Inspired by Gretchen Rubins podcast - Starting this year I made a list of things I want to do for each year I’ve been alive, so “32 for 32”. They aren’t resolutions per se, but stuff like “get professional photos taken of my baby” and “go to monhegan island”. Fun stuff.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:46 PM on September 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

I also take the day off from work (and if my birthday falls on a weekend, I'll take the weekday before or after off). In the morning I do an annual self-portrait photo (I'm an amateur photographer). I embed that self-portrait in a blog post where I reflect on my past year, note how I am feeling today, and list some aspirations for the coming year. It's interesting to revisit those posts years later. My Most Recent Birthday Post.

In the evening my best friend and I have a long, conversation-filled dinner at my favorite restaurant.

As my annual ritual has evolved... I started giving myself little treats/indulgences throughout my birthday week ("Angel's Week")... and that has turned into giving myself indulgences all throughout the month ("Angel's Month"). Each of those indulgences is numbered and blogged.
posted by LovelyAngel at 4:22 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our family has a traditional money cake. This has been happening since at least my great grandmothers day. One bakes a regular cake, whatever flavor floats your boat. In the meantime, we boil some coins (back in the day, whoever got the quarter was the lucky person; now we're up dollar coins). Once the coins cool (it's not a lot of change, just enough to let everyone get one), we push it into the cake at intervals around the middle. Then we put the icing on, so no one knows where the coins are. Of course, everyone who doesn't know the tradition is warned ahead of time. But it's fun to see who gets a nickel, and who ends up with the dollar.
posted by annieb at 4:25 PM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

My birthday is a week earlier than my wife's, so we tend to pick one of them (usually hers) and so something together. We always find it difficult to do things after work, so the past several years we've taken the day off and ridden the tandem around town on a restaurant/bar crawl to all the places that are difficult to get into on the weekends but are nice and quiet during the day on a weekday.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:38 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I take the day off from work, buy myself a gift, and in a way that’s hard to explain, let things go and err on the side of happiness. Then the next day I go back to being a dark cloud of gloom. I try to be around friends as much of the day as possible and (ugh, alas) also enjoy the steady stream of fb birthday greetings.

Oh also I send birthday greetings to the two people I know who share my birthday, and get very mildly grumpy for a moment about the boring list of famous people who share my birthday. Seriously they are the worst famous people.
posted by Smearcase at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

My birthday is in January when it is cold and unpleasant; on my half birthday in July I go a baseball game.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

My birthday is in the summer and I usually take my daughter to the beach (plus any friends or family that wants to come, most years it's one or two more people). I started doing it on a year when my birthday was on a Saturday, but my husband was out of town until the late afternoon. I didn't want to be bummed about that, so my best friend and I took my daughter to look at tide pools, dig in the sand, and get extra grubby. We've done it almost every year since. (One year I was sick and we had a just the two of us pajama party. I pulled out the sofa bed, piled pillows and lap blankets on it, and we read books all day.)

Also, I don't like talking on the phone much, so on my birthday I don't answer it (turn on don't disturb except for my spouse). I have let people know that I love getting cards or texts and not phone calls, so this at least shouldn't be a surprise.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:47 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I always take the day off of work. The only time I missed this tradition was when my birthday week coincided with my last week of work at a job I had worked at for 13 years. I sometimes spend my day alone, and sometimes with one of my close friends. I try to see a really bad movie, so that I've seen the worst movie already that I possibly could see for the year, making everything else I will see for the year automatically better—this is not difficult, as my birthday is in the summer. I also try to see something visually pleasing or fun; museum, gallery, beach, new town to stroll around in, kitschy place I don't often go—for example, one year I went to a local boardwalk with an arcade and played pinball and ate soft serve ice cream and took some pictures of it all. And I try to eat some awesome food and have some cake. The constants are the movie and the cake; everything else can (and does) vary.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:26 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Originally a joke, my partner and I have birthday stockings that we fill with small, cheap, fun gifts on our birthdays. Rather than do a big gift, we have fun finding a bunch of little things the other will appreciate. This is honestly something that could be done for yourself too. Target is a great place for this.
posted by notheotherone at 11:17 PM on September 7, 2018

The past few years, I've aimed to do as many random acts of kindness as the years I've been on this earth. The acts themselves are snall, but I try to do them with intention. It's a nice gift to myself. Related: I also do the Dutch thing of bringing in sweets for everyone at work on my birthday.
posted by wiskunde at 5:20 AM on September 8, 2018

The boring: I try to take the day off work and do an annual doctor's visit.
The typical: I make cupcakes for coworkers and spoil them. (I am allergic to chocolate, and nothing is more depressing than someone trying to be nice for my birthday and bringing in something that would ruin my day at best, so I jump the gun.)
The other: I start the day with a tarot reading (full celtic cross) for the year ahead, end the day with I Ching (yarrow sticks, not an app or something).
posted by Gucky at 9:56 AM on September 8, 2018

Lately, every two or three years I’ll draw the cartoon dragon that I draw myself as and simply title the drawing with my new age.
posted by egypturnash at 10:07 AM on September 8, 2018

I gather as many of my friends as I can - from all my friend groups - at a nice restaurant and buy them dinner.
posted by bendy at 1:56 PM on September 8, 2018

I take the day off, go to the botanical gardens (or some other lovely outdoor space) and wander around, go to a bookstore and for one day of the year just buy whatever I feeling like buying, and I usually have lunch out either just with my wife or with a few friends. It's almost always sushi.

There is usually a separate celebration on a nearby weekend with more friends, a lot or a few depending on how I'm feeling. But that's not as essential as my peaceful time on the day of.
posted by hought20 at 5:20 AM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't work on my birthday. I also don't enjoy my birthdays anymore, so usually it's a somber day of self-reflection and suicidal ideation. In years where I do feel like living on my actual birthday and a partner is available, I try to have sex. Sometimes I will buy a cake for myself that I don't have to share.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:59 PM on September 10, 2018

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