Blowing out the candles, your child makes a wish. The cake is passed around and disappears. Then the pile of presents is demolished piece by piece, each gift thrown aside in excitement for the next. It’s such a familiar scene that we may take for granted just how much consumption a child’s birthday party can entail.
Although gift-giving is a longstanding birthday tradition, there has been a recent trend toward “no-gift” parties— opting instead to collect donations for a charity of the birthday kid’s choice.
Be good and be happy!
Parents that request “no gifts please” or “presence not presents” on invitations are often asked “are you sure?” and “why?” Parents are worried that the child may be disappointed or that their parents forced them to have such an unconventional party. They may be recalling with a shiver a fuzzy green mountain-dweller who hated presents altogether.
The New York Times published an article detailing how several no-gift parties have gone over and how the children felt about them. Among the benefits parents described were these:
- Less cost and work for the guests’ parents
- No “competition” between friends about who brings the bigger and better gift
- Increased focus on enjoying the party and the friends themselves
- Guests tend to bring more thoughtful home-made cards or banners for the party
- The birthday girl or boy doesn’t have to receive gifts she or he may not like (and politely accept them)
- Less household clutter
But “no gifts” doesn’t have to mean no gifts: a few meaningful and wanted presents from parents or close relatives don’t break the bank. It’s the party with 20 gift-bearing kids that becomes all about the stuff. Among the parcels will be things that the child has no need for or may not even like. Good intentions turn into wasted money, wasted space, and wasted resources.
A common argument for the traditional way of gift-giving is that young guests learn selflessness by choosing gifts for their friends that they may want themselves. With the no-gift party, too, the guests give something to whatever charity the party is supporting.
Giving Can be Fun
Foster your child’s interests by encouraging them to donate to a cause they are interested in. Do they love animals? The ocean? The rainforest? Maybe they’d like to help give toys to children whose parents can’t afford any. Celebrating your child’s life with giving teaches generosity and gives them a sense of importance and accomplishment.
The true meaning of giving
Make the annual celebration of your child’s life about their positive impact on the world and their bonds with family and friends, not about how much they can acquire from it.
Remember what the Grinch finally realized: it’s not the stuff that makes the celebration. That’s extra. What really matters is togetherness and the spirit of giving. So why not give to those in need?
More discussion of the no-gift party can be found at:
Laura Lamica is an intern at HV Parent magazine who loves birthdays.