So… What’s Your Birthday Routine?

So: Today is my birthday.  It’s always a reflective time for me, and I have my little routines — and I thought it might be fun to talk about how we all like to spend our birthdays.

Personally, every year on my birthday (or as close to it as I can swing it) I take a picture of myself without makeup — I’ve been doing it since I was in my mid-20s.  I like documenting my actual face and skin through the years, not hidden or modified by makeup. I like to go through the pictures as a slideshow, occasionally comparing different intervals (5 years apart — 10 years apart — etc).  This may sound kind of harsh but thus far I’ve been happy with the routine (and, I guess, the way I’ve been aging).

I also get to eat whatever I want for my birthday, diet be damned, and I usually go for something fairly juvenile and unhealthy, e.g. a Big Mac.  (For lunch today it’s going to be a salami and swiss cheese sandwich, and I’m really looking forward to it.) Tonight, my husband and son will take me out.  (I do like to celebrate the occasion with friends as well as just with my husband at a fancy restaurant, but I think I want it to be a tradition that the actual day-of is spent with just my husband and son somewhere chill.)

One of the traditions that is on hold for the moment is the midnight call — my parents and brother have always gotten on a conference line to call me at the stroke of midnight and sing Happy Birthday — but most nights the Griffin household is in bed long before that (see above re baby!).  (Although… last night I was up late finishing Gone Girl, which felt indulgent and luxurious since I I never get to read for fun anymore!)

Readers, do you have birthday routines?  What does your ideal birthday look like?  Does your office recognize birthdays (parties, cake, permission to leave at a reasonable hour, etc)? 

(Pictured: balloons, originally uploaded to Flickr by velkr0.)


  1. Happy Birthday Kat!

    I love it when you post personal stuff like this – it’s like having an actual conversation with you.

  2. saacnmama :

    Happy birthday Kat! My grown-up birthdays were never much of a big deal to me, until my son. When he was 2, we went to a waterpark and had a great time. I have several happy memories of that day. The next year we had just moved and his excitement made sharing a McD’s sundae special. This year we were on vacation (he was 9), and all day long he kept asking “are you having a happy birthday, Mom?” So sweet!

  3. Happy birthday!

    No big specific birthday routines. I will celebrate with my family with either a movie or supper out sometime around my birthday (but odds are not the day of).

    If I’m not at my parents’ house on my birthday (it’s often near a holiday), then they will call me.

  4. Happy birthday! You enjoy that salami sandwich and delicious dinner with your husband and son.

    As for me, I’m not too big on birthdays. I usually have dinners with my mom and dad, and drinks with friends. Pretty normal.

  5. I recently moved from government to non-profit and non-profit is so much nicer around this stuff. Gov’t office didn’t acknowledge… but non-profit has a celebration each month for the birthdays.

  6. Happy birthday, Kat!

    I rarely have much control over what happens on the day itself, but I do give some thought to presents (from me to me). Something special that I love will always be associated with its birthday year, for example the splurge bag that I got myself for my 30th.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I love this idea! Maybe because I currently want an expensive bag I can’t justify…

      This year, I went away with my SO for our joint birthdays and I really liked it. We didn’t exchange gifts but I felt being away together made it really special (even though technically we missed both of our actual days). I’d like to continue the tradition as long as we’re together!

  7. Maddie Ross :

    No specific birthday routine necessarily, but much like you and your “eat what you want” day, I usually (work permitting) have a glass of wine or margarita with lunch on my birthday. Started my first year as a practicing attorney when several co-workers took me to a leisurely lunch with wine. I’ve continued every year (except this year as a preggo lady). It’s just something little that seems relaxed, and a bit decadent, to me.

  8. Happy birthday Kat!!!
    I actually really appreciate this post–this past year my birthday was a real bummer, and I ended up pretty sad feeling sorry for myself (also, boo birthdays falling on a weekday!) In retrospect, I should have said fooey to plans not coming together and celebrated myself. This year, I’ll definitely do that! In fact, my half birthday is in a few weeks (yes, I’m five. And a half.) Maybe I’ll make it up to myself and come up with a new tradition! Like a massage! Or a cupcake for lunch!

    • Is today Kat’s birthday! Yay!!!!! Happy Birthday to Kat!!!!! My birthday is NOT comeing up for a couple of month’s but every year, my dad make’s a BIG deal out of our birthday’s. When Rosa recentley celebated her b-day, DAD made her a big stake dinner (he love’s to grill) and we all had alot of potatoe salad!!! YUMMY! My mom get’s the potatoe salad from the deli in town — they have some KIND of secret sauce they use to make it VERY tangy! YUM!

      For my birthday, they already ordered me a VERY warm DOWN coat, but by the time it get’s here this week, it will be 60 degree’s! FOOEY! I hope I will be abel to use it b/f it get’s to warm out. So they are also planning a BIG dinner at the house. I get to pick what ever food I like. I think I will ORDER up a COBB salad, some SAMMON, and a big apple pie for desert, ala MODDE!!! YAY! This is ONE day My dad can NOT make fun of my tuchus b/c it is my b-day and I can eat what ever I like, even if my tuchus grows. Of course, he will be back on my case the next day, askeing me about exercise and whether I am walkeing or not (HE KNOWS b/c of the FITBIT).

      I will wish to have a boyfreind for my b-day, but I will NOT settel for a looser. FOOEY on that.

  9. chocochat :

    Happy birthday!

  10. Happy Birthday, Kat!

    I have eased into a really nice set of traditions for my birthday, although it’s fairly low-key. Art for Art’s Sake is always the Saturday closest to my birthday so I invite 3 or 4 of my girlfriends to join me for dinner and drinks early then we hit Magazine Street for art and shopping. I generally take the day of my birthday off, if I can, but that’s partly because it’s right after the busiest month of the semester. This year, I knowingly scheduled myself to teach on my birthday but it was fine. My SO and I have made a bit of a big deal about each other’s birthdays – a special gift, flowers for me, and I cook a nice dinner (for both of our birthdays – usually steak with whatever yummy stuff and brownies and ice cream for dessert). My family text me and call and sing Happy Birthday. My brother and I exchange the raunchiest cards we can find.

    • Sorry to be nosy but did you guys get back together? I thought you broke up recently? Hope all is well with you either way

      • Ha ha – well, I wondered if anyone would pick up on that. This still applies, I guess, either way, since we both had our birthdays in the fall. But, to answer your question, we’re working on it and talking. Trying to be more realistic about what to expect (both of us) and talking about trying to make it work. I still don’t know if it will and I’ve only seen him once since I decided to break it off. We’ll see!

        • Anonymous :

          Oh – I didn’t realize this happened – belated internet hugs!


          Regular lurker and NOLA fan.

        • Silvercurls :

          Nice news! I kept thinking about your statement that you loved each other and asking myself “given their mutual affection, can’t they find a way to make this work?” Sometimes loving a person means that you also accept the parts of that person that drive you nuts.

          (No, this isn’t an advertisement for staying in abusive or otherwise mostly unsatisfactory relationships. There’s a difference between accepting someone’s faults and becoming a total doormat.)

          Rant & anti-rant over. I hope you and your SO can work out something that makes both of you happy.

          • You are so sweet – Susedna said to me recently that where there is love, there is willingness. She’s a wise woman for a young ‘un. No, I’m not letting him walk all over me. I was actually very firm with him about what I need and what I can and can’t tolerate. He said he was proud of me for having that insight and being so confident. The confidence is partly what he has given me in the past almost 7 years. He is checking my calendar daily, planning around my schedule, and no longer taking me for granted. So far, so good!

  11. Happy birthday!

    I’m not a big birthday celebration person – really dislike being openly fussed over. I prefer to mark them with milestones (I paid off the balance of my law school loans on my 29th) or, admittedly more commonly, keep the actual day very low-key and allocating a little extra money to something else as my “birthday present” — one year, it was choosing the slightly more expensive baseboards that I preferred over the slightly less expensive ones that would have looked nice but not the same :)

  12. Happy Birthday! I don’t have a routine at all, except I spend it with my DH. I think we usually go out to dinner, although I can’t quite remember. The most important thing to me is that I spend my birthday with him, regardless of where/what/how.

  13. Happy birthday, Kat! You should be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and all the people you make happy every day. Enjoy your family celebration!

  14. Legally Brunette :

    Happy birthday Kat! Thanks for creating a fantastic blog and such a vibrant community of readers. We all appreciate your hard work in putting this blog together. I hope that you enjoy this day with hubby and son!

  15. At work, unfortunately we don’t leave any earlier. But our office manager does bring either donuts or bagels for us, which is very nice. I hope she expenses it, come to think of it! We do give small gifts to our boss (and vice versa).

    This past birthday, I celebrated it by having wrist surgery. Yeah, it sucked. But at least my boyfriend was there, which was nice (we have been long distance for the past 3 years). I think I finished off the night playing Bananagrams and eating Panera.

    • And I’m such a terrible person for forgetting to say…


  16. anonypotamus :

    Happy birthday Kat! I hope you have a wonderful day and have a great celebration with your husband and son!

    I haven’t developed any traditions per se, but only because until recently, I always had final exams on my birthday! So far, my favorite things are going out to a nice lunch (esp if its a weekday) with friends or co-workers, and a nice dinner with SO. This year, we did a joint celebration with a close friend who has a birthday close to mine and we did a private cooking class/dinner party at a local restaurant – it was a blast! Low key, fun, and involved plenty of wine :)

  17. Diana Barry :

    I have no set birthday traditions. My family (parents and siblings) usually calls and sings to me (Happy Birthday plus the Polish Sto Lat). Otherwise, nothing special that is routine – nothing at work, definitely not. I always eat what I want and usually make myself a cake.

  18. Happy birthday!

  19. Happy birthday!!

    I have ice cream for breakfast on my birthday, almost every year.

  20. Happy birthday Kat!
    Hope you have a wonderful day with family – which is just the way I would spend it too.
    I always look forward to mine – and like a previous commenter – I always get myself an extra-nice birthday present as a treat to myself.

  21. Business, Not Law :

    Happy Birthday!

    I really like the idea of taking the pictures without makeup on! For the past several years I have had a picture taken with me and my b’day cake (or cake-equivalent) which is just kind of fun…and I do the same for my significant other. I prefer to spend the day-of (or evening of) with him, just low key relaxing, as I’m not super comfortable with tons of attention.

    At the office several of the assistants arrange cake for the executives in our suite in the conference room but I find the routine absolutely mortifying and have politely requested to my assistant that my birthday not be celebrated in this manner!

  22. This year on my birthday, I’d just lost my job the week before and was trying to watch pennies – so I went down to Sugar Sweet Sunshine and bought myself half a dozen cupcakes. When employed, though, I go for something for myself in the under $250 range – examples have been highlights, a plane ticket, and a Cole Haan purse.

  23. Happy birthday!!! No special traditions here, though my family always makes whatever meal the birthday person wants, and my fiance’s family always makes whatever cake the birthday person wants… so, basically food is our love language :). Enjoy your day, Kat!

  24. Anne Shirley :

    Lobster- I’m a summer baby, so they’re in season, and our family tradition is birthday girl gets whatever she wants. Also mint choc chip ice cream pie.

  25. Happy birthday Kat!

  26. Coach Laura :

    Happy Birthday Kat! Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous year.

    My birthday is Saturday this week, so I will delay my family dinner at a restaurant until next weekend, because of the Super Bowl.

    I always treat myself to a massage, so I’ll be doing that Saturday morning.

    I also refuse to do any housework or cooking on the actual day, though that was hard to do when the kids were little but is do-able now.

  27. Happy birthday, Kat!

    This post is apt. My DH’s 40th birthday is coming up fast… less than a month away. Last year he arranged a surprise party of epic proportions for my 30th, so I’m feeling the (entirely self-induced) pressure.

    Ideas? What have other ‘r-ttes done for your SOs’ landmark birthdays?

    -Signed, Longtime lurker, sometime poster

    • Student4Life :

      It depends on what your DH is into, if he’s super social he would probably love all the attention and energy of a big party. If he’s more low-key, perhaps a nice dinner with close friends and family? I threw my DH a huge surprise party for his 30th, but for his 40th last year he wanted something more intimate. We had an awesome dinner in the private dining room of a local chef-owned restaurant and shared some special wines from our collection which were paired to each course. We invited 12 of his closest friends and took care of the tab for our guests. Afterwards we went to a local lounge for some (more) drinking and dancing. We had a separate celebration at the house a few days before with the local family. I also special ordered a cake made out of his favorite Italian cookies and our florist created a centerpiece flower arrangement with the colors and balloons of his favorite football team (he’s fanatical about football).

      Happy Belated Birthday to Kat!

  28. Happy Birthday Kat!

    I don’t have any specific traditions. If possible, I try to take the actual day off work or take off the Friday before my birthday to make it a long weekend. I try to get together with my family to go out to eat at a fancy restaurant that I would not normally try. I also eat whatever I want. Sometimes I’ll treat myself to a new clothing item or get a pedicure or massage.

  29. Definitely going to pay attention to some of the ideas here…. my 30th is coming up in a few weeks and I’m not sure what to do, but I want to make it fun!

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      I got a nice watch for my 30th and hope to have it for a long time.

      • That is one thing I have been considering. I’ve wanted one for a few years and so it seems like a good time.

  30. Happy birthday, Kat! And thank you for bringing us this wonderful community.

    Lately, it seems that my birthday is celebrated with dental work. I’m hoping that doesn’t become a tradition…

  31. Happy Birthday Kat!!!

    My summer birthday involves going to dinner (probably fancy sushi, possibly fancy chinese or authentic thai) with a bunch of friends (DH organizes), and getting a really good massage and pedicure on the weekend closest to my birthday.

  32. Happy Birthday, Kat!

    My birthday traditions are: take off work always, drink champagne during the day, eat something delicious for every meal, talk to friends and relatives I don’t always get to talk to throughout the year, and either go away for a minibreak or try to see a show. I highly recommend an annual show for one’s bday – it feels fun and festive but without any pressure to do something outrageous with a million people you may or may not want to see. Because I have a summer birthday, a mini-tradition has been seeing whatever is playing at Shakespeare in the Park. Reading this back, I realize I make kind of a big deal out of my bday even though I usually only spend it with a handful of people at most, but hey we all need to have something to look forward to and I love celebrations.

  33. Happy birthday to both you and me! I love having an end of January b-day when everything is gloomy outside. It’s nice to have a little celebration. I always try to take the day off work (successful this year). Today I am uber-pregnant so just lounging, had a yummy lunch out with the hubby, and my mom is coming over for Thai tonight. So nothing too exciting, but definitely better to spend the day on the couch with my old dog vs at the office :)

  34. Anonymous :

    Happy Birthday!

    I don’t work on my birthday. It is my one day just for me. Some years I spend it by myself and some years I’ll go somewhere with DH, it all depends on how I’m feeling. I think this year I’ll go to a museum that just opened up in my city followed by a quiet lunch out, I can hardly wait (even thought its not until March).

  35. So, for the edification and amusement of the hive, I will share the ridiculous hilario-awful story of my 30th birthday. I do think in full recognition that this will out me to my anyone who knows me in real life.

    My husband left me two weeks before my 30th birthday. It was a big surprise and a shock and although I immediately wanted to fly to the East Coast, which was home, I had to close a couple of deals and I was supposed to run a marathon the day before my birthday (I did, and PR’d, by the way).

    So after two weeks of awful, gut-wrenching loneliness, I flew home to my parents. To give you an idea of the state I was in, I basically couldn’t get out more than a paragraph of speech without crying, unless it was about signature pages or funds flows. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating…I was a wreck.

    I fly in the morning of my birthday, and that night, my parents take me to dinner at a restaurant that I love. Everyone is trying to be cheerful and celebratory, but it’s really pretty ghastly. We’re close to the end of the meal, when suddenly there’s a flurry of activity in the restaurant. A couple of waiters bring in a small two-person table and arrange it in front of the fountain on the patio. Another waiter brings in a beautiful flower arrangement and candles. Then, a very well-dressed, handsome young male couple are shown to the table by the owner of the restaurant.

    The couple order wine, and then, right after they order their drinks, one of them pulls out a velvet box, drops to one knee, and proposes marriage to the other. The restaurant breaks out in applause. The waiters bring champagne. My parents stare at their newly abandoned daughter in horror and fear, obviously convinced that I’m about to absolutely lose it.

    …and I burst into tears and say the first thing that comes into my head, to wit: “Next time anyone says gay people are ruining marriage, they should come talk to me.”

    True story, folks.

    • OMG, cbackson. That is just unbelievable. But I have to love the gay marriage proposal!

      My 30th birthday was awful, but not as hideous as yours. My BF at the time came home that night and said he didn’t “feel well” and cancelled my birthday dinner and sat down at his computer like nothing happened. His mother gave me a hideous bathrobe and I immediately went and exchanged it for a black dress that I wore for years. My family called me from the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium, where they were all tailgating for Monday Night Football. They all sounded so happy and excited that I burst into tears because I was sitting on my bed alone. For my 40th birthday, I planned my own awesome karaoke party.

      • CrimsonClover :

        Happy Birthday, Kat!

        My Birthday always involves the same events each year, as it’s arguably one of the busiest days of the year, and in my case, a very celebrated one- Christmas Eve!

        Thankfully, I always get to have my family around…even if we aren’t necessarily “feeling” the closeness of the holidays, haha!!

        I, too, am a firm believer in the giving a gift to yourself policy; this year I invested in a Clarisonic Mia… every night it’s like a mini-facial-massage when I get home and take off my make-up- love it!!!

      • +1 to planning your own awesome party. After years of terrible birthdays presided over by my Ex, i took matters into my own hands and planned my thirtieth with my sister in Spain. It was absolutely the best thing I have ever done for a birthday. This year, I want good friends, good beer, and a big bonfire.

    • Saacnmama :

      That is excellent and awful! Thanks for sharing.

      Btw, I was divorced by 30 too. :/

      • The only thing that I appreciate about this all going down right before my birthday is that I can say I was “briefly married in my twenties,” which somehow makes it less of a conversation-killer when I have to mention it to people!

        • @cbackson – this phrasing is perfect and I am stealing it.

          (long time/no see. Hope all is well.)

    • Research, Not Law :

      Ouch! Well, at least you have a good story now.

  36. Happy Birthday!

    I like to feel special on my birthday, but it’s enough for me for my husband and parents to celebrate it. My husband usually takes me out to eat (ethnic food, something different), and my parents will send a present. A lot of my friends will have huge blowout parties, but it feels a little “birthday-industrial-complex” for me unless it’s a milestone.

  37. CrimsonClover :

    Happy Birthday, Kat!

    My Birthday always incorporates the same events each year, as it’s arguably one of the busiest days of the year, and in my case, a very celebrated one- Christmas Eve!

    Thankfully, I always get to have my family around…even if we aren’t necessarily “feeling” the closeness of the holidays, haha!!

    I, too, am a firm believer in the giving a gift to yourself policy; this year I invested in a Clarisonic Mia… every night it’s like a mini-facial-massage when I get home and take off my make-up- love it!!!

  38. Happiest of birthdays!

    For mine, I usually find myself wanting a new dress (and for the last 5ish years, they’ve either been yellow or coral which is funny bc I usually wear black or grey) and new jewelry– something pretty and super girly and floaty and SPARKLY! Then the actual day usually involves food, dessert, and some form of outing.

    Sigh, I’ve become so predictable :P

  39. Anonymous :

    Happy Birthday!
    I always take the day off from work. Because my birthday is so close to Christmas, I spend the day decorating for Christmas. I pick out my Christmas tree and decorate it. I put up all the Christmas decorations. After dark, I sit in the living room with only the Christmas lights on and eat my birthday cake and whatever take out I have decided to treat myself to.

  40. SAlit-a-gator :

    Happy Birthday Kat! Thanks for creating such a wonderful online community – this site is part of my daily routine and I couldn’t imagine my life without it!

  41. Happy birthday Kat! No wonder I love your site since my birthday is tomorrow. As for traditions, I always make my husband do something he normally wouldn’t be inclined to do like go to a jazz show or dinner club. We always end up having a great time.

  42. Senior Attorney :

    Happy Birthday, Kat! Many happy returns of the day!

    I have taken the day off work for the past some years, which I love. And I love even more to be actually on vacation on my birthday. Mr. Senior Attorney and I went on our first cruise for my 50th, which was awesome and hard to top. This year we will be in Manhattan for a week, which will also be awesome.

    Other than that, I’m pretty easy-going. Generally there will be dinner out, either on The Day or within a few days if that works better for the schedule. And I have certainly been known to buy myself something fab.

  43. Happy day! I also like to take the day off. The best part of my birthday over the past couple of years has been the cake that my husband and boys pick out for me. They always think I’ll want a Batman or Star Wars cake. I don’t even like cake but I just love the look on their faces when they light the candles on the super hero cake and sing happy birthday to me–it makes my day!

  44. Yay! Happy birthday!! Mine is also this week. What is it with the late January/early February birthdays? There’s so many of them. Is it the early summer weddings?

  45. Happiest of birthdays, Kat. New shoes and an ice cream sundae for dinner. That’s the birthday tradition I plan to start next week. Might have to give it a trial run this week, however, just to make sure.

  46. I love my birthday routine, and I do it just about every year: I take the day off work (if it’s a weekday) and book a day at the spa. Then, when I get home I take a nap, and then I go out to a nice dinner with my husband and/or husband and friends! My birthday is Valentine’s Day, so that always makes it a little more fun!

  47. Silvercurls :

    Forgot my manners earlier. Happy birthday, Kat, and many more!
    Thank you for creating this site which has attracted so many articulate, accomplished, and empathetic women.

  48. Happy birthday, Kat!

    I don’t personally have a routine, but every year on my birthday my mom tells me the story of the day i was born. :)

    • That is so sweet! And so great that your mom is still around to do that (I lost my mom when she was 49 – one year older than I am now – yikes).

  49. Happy Birthday, Kat!

    Anon for this because I take myself on a trip every year for my birthday. I’m single, my family doesn’t live near me, and while I have friends in this city, it feels awkward to plan a party for myself. Some years I go visit friends in other cities, but this year, I’m thinking Paris.

  50. SoCalAtty :

    Those stories are awful! I was dreading my 30th, and didn’t want to do anything, so DH said we were just going to our favorite Mexican place with another couple. I got there and there were about 15 of my friends! Total surprise from the husband that has never planned anything.

    That weekend, he also took me to a guest ranch called Alisal in Solvang. You get to do 2 rides per day and it is on a huge ranch with fishing, hiking, tennis…amazing. Unfortunately, we thing DH got food poisoning and was sick in bed almost the whole weekend!

    It ended up being really fun (for me) anyway. I would go on the early morning ride, come back and bring DH soup, watch a movie with him in front of the fireplace, go on the afternoon ride, we would go out for soup/dinner, then back for another movie in front of the fireplace.

    So we don’t have a routine, really, but sometimes we do big things. DH wanted a big party for his 30th, so we re-did the back yard and had a BBQ for about 50 people. That was great.

    This year (next month!) for my birthday we are going to Hawaii (Big Island). So that should be fun :)

  51. In-House Europe :

    Happy (now belated) Birthday Kat!

    This year, I will be the mama of a 3-4 week old baby (and a likely to be jealous 3 year old) on my birthday…which I think means I will be doing very very little.

    Hmmm…need to think about this one! :)

  52. Happy belated birthday Kat!! I have always had a couple of birthday traditions–I go for a delicious lunch, diet be damned, whatever it is I really want, and I go buy a pair of shoes. Then when I wear those shoes later, I always feel special in my “birthday shoes”. Of course, this year with the new bebe may be different, but I’ll still find a way to get birthday shoes :)