We turned to some of our GrowMama readers and writers to see how they deal with birthdays in their families. Let us ask you the same question, “Birthdays… What do you do?”
B wrote of a fresh twist on the traditional birthday party,
“It finally happened… my daughter asked for a birthday party. Before this, my husband and I were undecided about birthday parties. I grew up with them; his family barely acknowledged birthdays. We have, however, developed a philosophy that we would not simply exclude our daughter from activities because we were “uncomfortable” with them; we would need to have a sound Islamic or developmental reason for doing so. My husband and I discussed our discomfort with birthday parties. What we discovered was that we did not think they were “haram” or “bid’ah.” We simply didn’t like the often self-centered and materialistic overtones the party can have. When we talked to our daughter about why she wanted a birthday party, she said that she wanted to have her friends over to play and have fun.
So we decided to have a birthday party for her at our house – with a twist. We asked that people not bring gifts and that, if they felt the need to bring something, they bring a donation for the children at a local shelter. Our daughter then delivered the donations to the shelter. We also made sure to emphasize to our daughter that instead of being the “birthday girl,” she would focus on being a good host in the Islamic tradition. She would serve her guests before eating herself, she would let her friends go first during the games; in short, she would be focused on honoring her guests. She did cut a cake, and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her. However, we felt that she was able to partake in the positive aspects of a tradition she is surrounded with while reinforcing Islamic ideals.”
“Birthdays are a tricky one for us. We mentor our children to understand that birthdays are not about indulging ourselves in gifts but rather another opportunity to thank Allah SWT. We usually have a small family “Thank You Allah” party. Sometimes we get the children a small-gesture gift , but nothing as big and exciting as the Eid Celebration.
On another note, attending a classmate’s birthday party is a difficult decision for us. As a young child in a big city I was not allowed to attend birthday parties. However, now my children live in a small town. In our town, a birthday invitation is one family inviting another family to their home. It’s more than just a kid b-day invite. It allows our neighbors to interact with us on a social level and get to know Muslims in a positive light. I explain to my children the custom of birthdays in a non-muslim culture and explain to them our differences. Through education, I explain to other families that we don’t celebrate birthdays with large parties and gifts but they are welcome to come to our home for a play date anytime. My children are always welcome to invite their friends over for Eid celebrations or any other event. So far my children seem adjusted to this plan and confident in our “Birthday Identity.” It’s such a big thing in the US, especially with families that have more money. Wa Allahu Alam.”
“When my twin daughters turned 1 year old, we marked the occasion by allowing them to eat honey, and by turning their car seats forward-facing. When they turned two, we did nothing. When they turned two-and-a-half, I told them their age and said they’d be wearing big-girl underpants from now on, and so our potty-training started. When they turned three, we marked it by making a new rule for them: No more going around without pants on. When they turned three-and-a-half, we marked it by putting their highchairs away and having them eat on regular chairs, and by installing a spray by the toilet so they could clean themselves after using the bathroom. I’m looking forward to the rule I’m going to introduce when they turn three-and-three-quarters, insha Allah, in three days: No more changing clothes five or six times a day!”
And finally, H says:
“In our family neither my husband nor I make a big deal about our own birthdays nor our children’s, but as our children get older, they have begun to announce their birthdays a few weeks before the event and especially on the day of. Consequently, their kind-hearted aunt has begun to either bake or buy them a cake and come by with it in hand. The first time that occurred I did not say anything, since the cake was chocolate and it was a surprise for all of us. No song was sung and we all just ate and laughed and had a good family time. For a few years now, the cake was there either the day of or the following weekend. Again, with no singing or gift giving; just another reason to eat good cake.
Outside of the family, we do not accept birthday invitations and decline politely. We do not host birthday parties either. We try to celebrate both Eids in a noticeable manner, distributing candies and treats in these events only.”