How to Have a More Creative and Joyful Birthday Party
My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and my friends are asking me what I want to do. I know they want to go to a bar or throw a rager, but that’s not what I want. I have nothing against drinking, I just don’t want that to be the focus. But I don’t know what I want the focus to be instead. You always seem to have creative ideas. What would you do?
– Birthday Blues
Dear Birthday Blues,
For the past five years I have played capture the flag on my birthday. Anywhere between about ten and thirty people have put on dark clothes, grabbed flashlights, and headed out into the woods by my old elementary school to play a childhood game, and most of them love it. People have even asked me to organize other games in the months between (which I have not, because it is difficult to motivate people when it is not my birthday). Afterwards we often end up playing games like Cards Against Humanity while drinking back at my house.
In college I organized a game of dodgeball for my 21st birthday, followed by a musical jam session (I did the whole get-too-drunk at a bar at midnight routine the night before). It was so popular that it inspired a few of my friends to organize regular dodgeball games at our dorm, and has since become a tradition.
A friend of mine sent the following schedule for his birthday party out on Facebook:
“Morning 11 – Fight Club and Play
Lunch 1 pm – Picnic in the wilderness – Bring some nice food.
Afternoon – In the flow – Circling Meditation 🙂
Night time – Party time
Come to any part that attracts you – (follow your desire) ((and remember I want you there!!!)).”
My mom wanted to have people over but did not want to cook. So she suggested getting menus from her favorite restaurant, having people order what they want, and getting it delivered to the house.
Another literary friend gave people a topic she was interested in, asked anyone who was inspired to write a poem about the topic, and hosted a poetry reading. She encouraged people to bring wine and had nice cheese.
I mention these as examples of birthday parties I have personally experienced that have been extremely well received.
Your birthday is your own special day, and it is one of the rare days people feel comfortable asking for what they want without apologies. Take advantage of this opportunity, and remember that it is actually not a selfish. People want to show you affection in the way that you will most appreciate. If you do not tell them what you want most people will go with the cultural default—cake, candles, cards, and consumption. Even if they, too, would prefer something different.
So think about what you want, what you like, and see if there is a way you can work it into a social gathering. I do not want to encourage you to be a megalomaniac—you absolutely should take other people’s preferences and cultural norms into consideration (For example, I poll people to find out the best day and time for capture the flag). But you can often blend an activity you like, even if it is abnormal, in a way that is easy for the people you love to join you.
This obviously does not apply to everyone. Not everyone wants to do something unique and different on their birthday. But it might apply to some other cultural tradition that you want to organize in a different way, be it a bachelor/bachelorette party, a wedding, retirement, baby shower, graduation, etc. I encourage you to consider what you want, how much of that is simply tradition and/or habit, to clearly communicate your desire and trepidation, and finally to remain open to changing and compromising in a way that serves you and the greater good.
You may notice that I’ve written a few articles about choosing different social activities. This is no accident. It is because there is a wellspring of creativity inside each and every one of us waiting to burst forth and bring more vibrancy and life into the moment. Your unique interests and ideas are gifts unto the world, and right now too many of us settle for what is socially convenient instead of putting forth our passion, inspiration, and silliness. Bring them forth, for these are the things that make life wonderful.