Celebrating birthdays and giving gifts
Definition: A birthday is a day when a person celebrates the anniversary date of his or her birth.

Reasons to celebrate one's birthday
• To celebrate surviving another year
• To honor or recognize someone
• Wish someone well
• To show our love
• To give a gift
• To party

Advantages to celebrating birthdays
• You get stuff.
• You get to see friends you don't normally or regularly see.
• You get cards telling you how much people love you.
• You have permission to eat, guilt-free, cake and ice cream.
• People celebrate and congratulate you.
• People make a fuss over you and boost your ego.
• You get stuff.

When I was a kid, birthday celebrations were so much fun. As a child, I realized that a birthday party was just an excuse to get new stuff, eat comfort foods, and get together and play with friends. But, it was mainly about getting new toys. The celebration of growing up and being a year older was not considered or often looked forward to. As an adult, and especially as a minimalist - most of those childish advantages are no longer important or even wanted. Typically, today, a birthday is just another day. If I have a need or desire to hang out and play with friends, I give them a call. Anytime during the year.

So much of a birthday party is now about ego and self-centered narcissism. It's even a bit embarrassing when people put their birthdate on Facebook - primarily to solicit and fish for happy wishes. Often, there is a long column of Happy Birthday comments. Not too sincere.

Advantages to not always celebrating birthdays
• Puts more relevance and importance on maintaining more sincere contact with friends and family.
• No shopping for a card by a birthday deadline. Give a card whenever you want.
• No shopping, wrapping, and giving presents. See Giving gifts below.
• No cooking. If you love to cook and entertain, host a dinner party. Whenever you want or feel the need.
Exceptions: A birthday party can work well if someone has been out of town a long while or reached an annual milestone (50 years old, etc.)

Once a year, each of my dogs has a birthday, but that makes no sense to her. Sure, she gets love and attention on her birthday - but, just like she gets every other day. No difference. A birthday observance or celebration has absolutely no value to her. I suspect that is true of every animal species: trout, parakeets, and elephants. None even think about it. Or remember the date they were born or hatched.
How is it different for humans? Do we focus so much on our own lives that we need a special day to remind us to think of someone else? To call someone up? Do we need an excuse to party? Or to give someone a phone call? Why can't we just have a party whenever we want? Even sing to someone, give presents, and eat cake and ice cream. Make up a reason if you need to.


Of course, this is the cultural norm. But, it is not completely accurate. The day of birth changes each year. The date does not. We are really celebrating one's birthday on the date of birth:

Well, okay, that's a bit more accurate, but one's date of birth was years ago. We are actually celebrating the anniversary of the date of birth:

Ooh, that's just too long and tough to say. And birth and date is somewhat redundant. We don't really care about the date, we are honoring the birth itself. Maybe we shorten it:

Singing Happy Birth Anniversary doesn't have the same catchy ring to it. The birthday song is, maybe, the most well-known, most sung, most familiar song ever. Any change would be awkward.

Maybe, it's a new word. Not sure it'll catch on too easily. Then, there is this option, popular on social media sites:

This makes a lot of sense - it acknowledges one of the best things about the celebration and avoids the day/date/anniversary confusion completely.

Sometimes I send this message: Wishing you a fantabulous anniversary of your birth date.
Or this text message:

History of the song
Two sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill, introduced the song "Good Morning to All" to Patty's kindergarten class in Kentucky. In 1893, they published the tune in their songbook Song Stories for the Kindergarten. However, they may have copied the tune and lyrical idea from other popular nineteenth-century songs, including Horace Waters' "Happy Greetings to All", "Good Night to You All" from 1858, "A Happy New Year to All" 1875, and "A Happy Greeting to All", 1885.
The Hill Sisters' students enjoyed their teachers' version of "Good Morning to All" so much that they began spontaneously singing it at birthday parties, changing the lyrics to "Happy Birthday". Several songbooks from 1918-1933 published that song in their collections.
In 1935, "Happy Birthday to You" was copyrighted by the Summy Company, publisher of "Good Morning to All". In 1989, the rights to "Happy Birthday to You" were sold to Time Warner. In March 2004, Warner Music Group was sold to a group of investors who insist that one cannot sing the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics for profit without paying royalties: in 2008, Warner collected about $5000 per day ($2 million per year) in royalties for the song. This includes use in film, television, radio, and anywhere open to the paying public.
In the European Union, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years; since Patty Hill died in 1946 the copyright will expire on December 31, 2016 - assuming the copyright is valid. In the USA, the song is registered to a corporation, so it will not pass into the public domain until 2030, 95 years after publication. However, due to problems with the song's authorship and the notice and renewal of the copyright, it is probly no longer under copyright.

Giving gifts

Two influences
1. I used to get back home from family Christmas celebrations and lay out my gifts on the bed. I would go through them right then and decide which had value for me and which would be donated. The ones that I could use would be put away and the donated ones would go right to the garage to later be taken to the dropoff point. Stuff I didn't need or want didn't hang around the house to become clutter. Donating an item didn't decrease the kind thought or considerate gesture any. I loved the giver just as much.

2. I remember seeing a tacky sugar packet holder on our breakfast table. I asked mom why she kept this weird thing. She acknowledged that she didn't really like it either, but, "It was a gift and what if Mrs. Baxter comes over?" I replied, "So, what? Do you think she'll look around the house for the thing and ask where it is if she doesn't find it? That would be really rude. Is Mrs. Baxter that rude?" No, I guess not.
We threw that silly thing away. I suspect many people hold on to stuff fearing they might offend the giver. So those tacky unwanted gifts hold a great deal of power over someone's interior decorating sense.

Giving presents is always hard for a minimalist. To give someone something they may not need or want? That just seems rude and inconsiderate. How does one know what someone else really needs. More crap. The relationship sentiment is between two people, not between people and their stuff. Buying fewer gifts means less shopping, less crowds, and less stress.

Gift-giving premise
Sometimes, one can find or think of that perfect gift - something that will enhance the lifestyle of the givee. Some people are really good at giving gifts. They know someone so well that when they see an item that would fit their life well, they get it and give it. No special reason, just "Hey, I saw this and thought it would be great in your den."
Most people buy what they need and many also buy what they want.

Useful gifts I sometimes give
• Alcohol (only if sure its appropriate - giving alcohol to an alcoholic or a mean drunk is as rude, thoughtless, and inconsiderate as giving chocolates to a fat person or candy to a diabetic.) Maybe a nice liqueur or after-dinner drink that can be shared with others.
• Flowers, these can even be ordered online.
• Food, maybe, only if sure it meets the dietary restrictions of the recipient. I put it in a disposable container to minimize the awkwardness and hassle of keeping and returning a dish or pan.
• Gift card to restaurant, store, Starbucks, Amazon, or iTunes. Important: the goal is to give a card that is appropriate for the recipient, will likely be used. Redemption agencies state that up to 20% of all gift cards are never redeemed; there is approximately $30 billion in unused gift cards.

Poor gifts I won't give
• Stuff that reflects my own tastes and not those of the recipient.
• Clothes (hard to match size and style preference).
• Stuff for the home, art; anything that has strong potential to become clutter, junk, or stuff in a groj sale.
• Hokey eCards that take time to load and then are almost always disappointing. Better to just write a sincere message in a card or email.