A Fourth of July Birthday
by Kim Tilley
What do you do when your child's birthday falls on or near a holiday? How do you celebrate both without your child feeling left out? Actually, most holidays combine very well with birthdays, particularly the smaller holidays. The 4th of July in particular is one of the best times to have a birthday. What was once a tradition of going to see fireworks can become a summer event. For us, it's our biggest family gathering of the year. We have 7 summer birthdays to celebrate, including two of my sons, my husband and my father, ranging from the ages of 2 to 50. Surprisingly, the cost isn't too bad. We all bring a dish of something, and chip in for the fireworks. Most of the adults get gag gifts, and we make or buy presents for the kids.
Here are some ideas that we use to combine this holiday and so many birthdays:
Flag Cake - Usually there are a couple of birthday cakes floating around at our celebration, but the "flag cake" is usually the favorite, and it's so easy. Make your favorite cake mix or cake recipe in a large, rectangular pan, let cool, then "ice" it with Cool Whip. Decorate with blueberries and strawberries to make a flag design on top, and refrigerate until ready to serve. I have seen people use sparklers as candles on some birthday cakes, if you do so, please be careful so no one gets hurt!
Friends - If your child is older, he or she may want to invite friends to the celebration. We have kept our celebrations to mostly family, but do invite friends and their families over for the cookout and fireworks. Why not invite a few of your children's friends for the festivities and a backyard campout of sleepover after the fireworks show?
Party Favors - Have the kids make little flags by drawing the paper flags and attaching to popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or twigs. Kids can design their own t-shirts too, with fabric paint. We like to do these ahead, and wear them for the celebration. You can buy really nice 4th of July applique panels at your sewing store. The "VIP" Fabric Company makes a wonderful assortment for about $2-4 for a panel (available at any sewing store), that will do several shirts. Just fuse onto the shirt with an iron, and then use fabric paint or your sewing machine to edge the appliques. You can also design iron-ons with your computer, print them and stick them on a shirt. Check out programs like "Hanes T-shirt Factory". More party favor ideas: kids can decorate their own party hats with sparkles and paint in patriotic colors, or make some fire-free "sparklers" by painting spools in red, white and blue, then inserting silver pipe cleaners into the top, You can also add beads to the end of the pipe cleaners.
Fireworks - I have never met a kid who did not like fireworks on his birthday. What a great way to share a birthday-with your country! At our celebration, everyone pitches in to pay for fireworks and we put on our own show. If you can't do that, try to find a nice fireworks show to attend that is not too overcrowded. A nearby park does fireworks here on July 3rd, which we can see from our house. We get a double dose of fireworks, which is great fun for the kids.
Cookout/Picnic - Have a potluck dinner and cookout. We try to keep all of the activities outside if possible. Have others bring side dishes and some of the cookout items, just worry about the birthday cake and burgers. A watermelon or pie-eating contest can be fun too, make sure to take lots of silly pictures of the relatives.
Outdoor Games and Activities - We love to have a "family olympics" at our celebration. We have our annual badminton "championships", where the winner gets to take home a "traveling trophy" that is uglier than original sin, that must be displayed proudly in their home for all to see. We also play volleyball, go fishing and love to stargaze after the fireworks are over. As the kids get older, we are adding things that are easier for them to do. This year we are thinking about adding Frisbee golf, an outdoor checkers championship, and maybe "twister". The kids are never bored and enjoy having the adults get in on the fun.
Hopefully, a combination of relatives, friends, fireworks, games and presents will be something your child looks forward to on the 4th of July. Siblings may wish their birthdays were in July! With a little planning, it can be a fun, eventful day that your family and friends look forward to all year.
Kim Tilley is the editor of Frugal Moms and a tightwad at heart. She lives with her husband and three children in Illinois.