The Joys of Presentless Birthdays

When you already have enough, and chances are good that you do, the best present is presence – not presents in the form of wrapped gifts or other objects.

Think about it for a moment. A birthday is definitely a reason to celebrate. Another year older, another year wiser, right?! So let’s start putting a little more Simple Wisdom back into our lives and embrace the simplicity of presentless birthdays (holidays in general).

Culturally it may be a stumbling block, after all gift giving begins even before we are born. Sometimes by way of baby showers, other times by hand-me-downs, always to get ready for the arrival of something new.

The new news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways around the gift-giving-and-receiving trap. No, we don’t need a gift to go, not now and never always. We shouldn’t be eating chocolate every day just because we like it. We shouldn’t shop out of boredom. We shouldn’t be pressured to conform to consumerism and trends just to fit in to what society believes is right, right now.

Times are changing.

Clutter is growing, the sea is full of trash and relationships are departing – and there is a simple way to change all of this. It is right before our eyes, yet it seems too good to be true. We can almost smell it, but we tend to trust our vision the most….

Change your lens and shift the focus of the celebration.

Let’s assume that a birthday is a celebration of life, not a time for collecting wants and clutter, but a time to be with friends and family, to enjoy quiet contemplation as well as thoughtful and respectful conversation. It is a series of moments all bunched together, much like any day really, you get to choose the direction it goes.

A birthday is a perfect opportunity for a humble party or dinner. Craft it into something special by putting thought and attention into the details, not the presents.

Instead of jewelry or store-bought flowers wrapped in plastic, why not start the day with a poem – an ode to the life celebrating recipient? Say what you really mean, how you feel about that person, day after day. Take the time to be honest and appreciative. Those words and emotions will be remembered long after a mere gift becomes a passing item.

hand-dipped beeswax candles birthday nut cake

Share a homemade cake. Make it from real ingredients and build it so grand that it lasts for many meals. And be proud of those hand-dipped beeswax candles too, one for every year. To age is to grow, there should be no fear, only expectations for the future and contentment in the now.

Presence, not presents. Show your love and support with simply being there when you can. Turn off technology and be personal. Discuss, converse, laugh, tell stories. Be present and fully there.

One of the best ways to eliminate clutter from your life is not to invite it in, at all. The next time your birthday rolls around, think twice if there is anything you really need – chances are great that you already have everything you need in terms of physical goods. Become an unconsumer and think beyond the cheap gratification of gifts, for an uncluttered life is a beautiful one full of space, freedom and time to play.

Create memories instead.


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  1. says

    Awesome post!

    I am doing something similar with my daughters birthday which is tomorrow. We are having a homemade cake, spending time with each other, and her gift is a few new nail polishes along with a manicure, pedicure, facial, and braiding of her hair. I want to give her experiences. Plus we will be going out for lunch and dinner.

    My next birthday I want a few experience gifts or just time with my family is good too.

    • Cheryl says

      Experiences always make wonderful gifts as long as they nurture the body and spirit. Happy birthday to your daughter!

  2. Eva says

    so, how many candles are there? What is the cake made of? Love the twigs with pink buds.
    I must say I like giving presents, but mostly home made ones and ones that are needed and used for sure.Happy birthday to Cheryl?or Roland?

    • Cheryl says

      37 for the eldest, I am younger by a year and our birthdays are 2 days apart :)

      It is a raw nut-banana cake, we will put the “recipe” on our gluten-free blog soon.

  3. says

    well written post- however birthdays and christmas are the only times of the year where I recieve anything and with a well crafted wish list I always get wonderful things, like needed school books, needed clothing and such. I like the presents I get and will keep them around. Maybe I should state that I only get about 5 or 6 every time, so it isn’t overwhelming at all.

    • Roland says

      This is the case when desires happily merge with needs. Good for you!

      We would challenge you though to try an out-of-ordinary birthday or Christmas when you forgo a wishlist, without postponement, and just enjoy the moments unfold without any wrapper. See how it feels different, if it does.