Sunday, 12 March 2017

Minimalist no-gift birthdays

Yesterday, one of our household had a birthday.

A few years back we stopped giving Christmas gifts, but continued to give birthday presents. Then a couple of years ago we began to feel that, too, was something we felt uneasy with – not least because it creates a pressure to reciprocate, which can be difficult for low-income people. So last year, as the birthdays came round, we had a last-birthday-with-a-gift scenario, the birthday presents being very modest but still happening. Now this year we’re on to no-gift birthdays.

However, we do like to celebrate. We talked around the idea of maybe going out for a meal, but decided that would be even more expensive than buying gifts.

Yesterday’s birthday followed what will – loosely – become our tradition, I think.

First, we asked the birthday person what she would like to do on her birthday – and she, like all the rest of us, mainly likes to chill out and have a quiet day, enjoying the company of family; not go anywhere or do anything in particular. That was her idea of a happy day, and it’s certainly mine too. I did have a party one year, but to get round the horrors of socializing, it was a silent party. My birthday is in the summer, so we invited friends to our home and garden within a two-hour time slot, just to be peaceful in the sunshine among the flowers, enjoying the nibbles we provided. It actually didn’t work so well because some unscheduled relatives who had not been invited to my party (so didn’t know it was on) showed up wanting to socialize. I managed to corral them into a separate room where they proceeded to chat loudly for most of the two hours. Sigh. Lord only knows what they made of the silent people dotted around our home.

So anyway, what we do now follows what’s becoming a pattern.

The day generally starts with those who are not the birthday person getting up early to make the birthday altar. Here’s yesterday’s:



It has flowers; cards; chocolates; and little booklets of quotations, pictures, jokes etc, made by those of us who like to do that as a memento of the occasion.
We put on some music, and have our breakfast drinks from pretty china, sit around and chat for a while. Then, yesterday, three of us completed a batch of choux buns they’d made ready the day before. Half were filled with whipped cream and had coffee frosting on the top, the other half the same but with lemon curd folded into the cream and lemon frosting. So at elevenses time we had those. And they were delicious.

Four of my five daughters live in this house, and their fifth, married sister managed to snatch an hour from family responsibilities to come and hang out with us – which made it perfect. Such a happy time. She doesn’t feel quite the same about no-gift birthdays so she brought a most brilliant gift, with the stipulation that the recipient should feel free to get rid of it if ever it just became redundant junk. Her gift – which felt just right for the times we’re in both as our little family and as a global family  was a cream canvas tote bag with hot pink carry straps, bearing the words "nevertheless she persisted".

We had quiche and salad for lunch, and settled down in the afternoon to watch an old movie together – the 1990s version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (the one with Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth).

Having enjoyed each other’s company all day, we began to drift into solitary peace as it came towards evening – and then one of us made everyone a scrumptious supper of sausages and gravy with mashed potato, steamed cabbage and peas; because that’s a favourite.

And that’s our idea of a minimalist no-gift birthday – so happy, so relaxed.




20 comments:

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

This sounds utterly perfect! Many blessings to the Birthday Person and to all your family.

Disco Del said...

That sounds blissful

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

It was a lovely day.

gretchen said...

a quiet day, doing nothing in particular ~ absolutely perfect. here's a quotation from poet gary snyder, 'fewer the artefacts, less the words, slowly the life of it, a knack for non-attachment.' blessings to the birthday person :)

Pen Wilcock said...

I don't know that poem - how lovely. x

Patricia Yandell said...

sounds pure joy. Love the quote on the bag.

Rebecca said...

I can't imagine a better way to spend one's birthday!
Glad you described its details.

Carol Z said...

Sounds lovely. I may choose Persuasion and cream puffs for a day this week. No need to wait for my birthday. Birthday good wishes!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello friends - waving! xx

Angela Kent said...

Sounds perfect. I think you've inspired me. Better than buying gifts you can't really afford, for people who don't really want them!

Sandra Ann said...

What a lovely day! I must admit the " not aware there is a party going on" gatecrashing relatives made me smile xx

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D

Waving!

xx

Bethany said...

Yesterday afternoon I went to a great minimalist party for a librarian/book-loving friend. Her husband invited her dear friends to come over and bring a favorite book for a book exchange. All the book lovers had at least as much fun sharing favorites and recommendations as we had with the actual exchange.
Some brought a new copy of their favorite book (the manager of the local bookstore was there and I loved how many of the new books had come through her hands), some brought the least-used copy of a favorite from home ("The other one is held together by duct tape," said one participant), and someone even brought a first edition to pass along.
It was delightful and fun and only a little bit exhausting. So I LOVE the idea of your silent party (even the farcical image of the loud, uninvited family members). Thanks for sharing.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, what a lovely idea for a party!

:0)

Anonymous said...

I asked an African friend what they did for their recent birthday. All the church family took the oppertunity to bless the birthday person by bringing words of correction and direction. My friend also spent the whole day in prayer and fasting to dedicate the rest of their life to God.

Pen Wilcock said...

Jeepers. Not sure that's my idea of a happy celebration, but admirable nonetheless!

Anonymous said...

I love the 1995 Persuasion! Amanda Root is a perfect Anne and Ciaran Hinds is luvverly.

- Philippa xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Yep. It's a good one! x

Mother Abyss said...

Forsook this "festival of ephemerality our society seems to have become" (Will Self) long, long ago. No regrets!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

xx