Have you ever wondered where the idea of holding a ‘Birthday’ party originated from? Well, I looked it up - so proud of my roots kind of moment – as I found out that it started taking place in ancient Egypt. Around 3,000 BC the Pharaohs threw lavish parties on the day of their coronation (when they were becoming Gods). Also the Roman empire’s families celebrated their birthdays, even though females’ birthdays weren’t celebrated till the 12th century. Then came the cake, originally invented by a German baker 200 years ago. So amazing, right?
Nowadays, birthdays are a big deal for most families, especially if it is for their children. We tend to have a deep desire to make it memorable, not only for the child, but also for the guests. And occasionally, we just lose ourselves in the ‘making it special’ part, especially if you are coming from the same background as myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating my two children, but I also made it a mission 5 years ago to make it more about giving than receiving. Critical awareness of our surroundings was the key to achieving “memorable” birthdays for us and others around the world.
A wise human once told me, “What is it about kids today, always wanting more and more… what happened to the concept of giving back”. This statement made me think genuinely of ways to contribute and make a change, in addition to my kids celebrating and eating cake with their loved ones.
A couple of years ago, Tamara my eldest daughter, visited Kenya for the first time. Over there, she heard all about the malaria disease and was very moved by what she had learnt. So on her 7th birthday, we found an organisation that provides nets for families to protect them from being bitten. Et voila, the birthday invitations went out with a P.S. at the bottom asking the children to donate on her behalf using the following link “Against Malaria Foundation” instead of buying her gifts. The website had an awesome feature that enables Users to customise an electronic birthday card also with their personal message to Tamara.
This year my youngest daughter Aaliyah came across the cleft lips cases in Africa. As much as it was hard to read and watch clips about those little angels, she was very absorbed by it all. We found a campaign on Yalla give, which again we shared with our friends. The website also allows the donor to write a note to the birthday girl when they are donating; which was so heart-warming for us to read. Happy to say that we had the kindest friends and family members who by donating on Aaliyah’s behalf - helped fund 27 surgeries - gifting beautiful smiles to children in Madagascar.
Sharing some of our favorite ways to donate:
1. Creating awareness about diverse topics and issues from around the world plays an immense role in the child’s psyche. Having that sofa discussion with our children helps cultivate empathy and compassion towards others.
2. A few weeks ahead of the birthday, I usually ask my children to write what they would like as a gift for their birthday. Followed by arranging with our close relatives (mainly grandparents) which items they would like to kindly get them.
3. After that, we start looking up causes that they would like to support. We are always on a search for legal local/international organisations, that are trustworthy to deliver what is has promised.The best organisations are the one that provides information on the impact or data on how many families/animals are being helped out.
4. Involving the children in choosing the cause is key. Because if they are not on the same page as you, then you need to give them time while you plant the seed of giving back for the next round. There is no right or wrong way of doing it. Mama Google can help you and your child to find out the right cause and how to easily donate.
5. There are so many platforms that you can use to donate on someone’s behalf with a click of a button. One of our favourite is Share the Meal app. We use it often and we also kept the same tradition when it’s a friend’s birthday. We donate on behalf of the birthday boy/girl and get them a small gift.
For me personally, I wanted to start raising kind children in a world full of entitlements. Being empathetic and mindful are crucial personality traits that children can develop and our role as parents is to guide them. Eventually, they will develop positive behaviours that will enable them to advance emotionally, socially and also academically.
When our children show kindness and share their blessings with others on their special day, it truly is the greatest gift of all.
Will you join us in making your child’s next birthday blossom with kindness? Let us know your thoughts and creative ideas.
If you would like to read more about the history of birthdays, please click here.
Birthday picture credit by Rahel Daniel