How to celebrate a birthday - party, presents and cake...

Birthdays, we all have them and whether you look forward to them every year or they fill you with dread, there's no avoiding them. Birthdays have been celebrated for thousands of years, the exact origins of how and when these celebrations began, remains open for debate, what is clear however, are the traditions that have grown up around how we celebrate these extra special and joyous events. If you're going "all-out" the absolute minimum you need for a top-class birthday celebration are three things; a party, presents and a cake. A party provides us with the perfect opportunity for friends and family to gather round, it gives us the excuse to put our busy lives on hold for just one day and come together to help celebrate the day your loved one made their very first appearance into the world. If you're feeling extra daring you might even consider throwing a surprise party; however the stealth and planning involved should not be underestimated and you could end up feeling like an over-worked, MI5 secret agent by the end of it - but if you can pull it off, there's no better feeling than seeing the look of shock and surprise, gradually turn to wonder and joy on your friend or loved one's face. Presents, lots and lots of them, no birthday would be complete without the best selection of gifts that money could buy and finally a cake! Birthday cakes, similar to the one's we enjoy today are believed to have originated in Germany in the 1400's, the addition of candles can also be attributed to the Germans when Kinderfesten gained popularity in the late 18th century. Kinderefeste is a birthday celebration for children where candles are placed on a cake for each year of the child's life, plus one more to symbolise the hope of living another year. Blowing out the candles and making a wish also formed an integral part of these early celebrations. So now we know the pre-requisites for a top-notch birthday bash, we need to consider one more thing, does the recipient fall into the "Yes - I can't wait" camp or the camp that thinks, "Oh No - It's not that time of year again, is it?".

Birthday's can conjure up a mixture of emotions in people, for some it's a joyous event where for just one special day of the year, the world seems to revolve around them! They revel in all the extra attention they receive, open their presents with unbridled enthusiasm and almost 'demand' to have a party thrown for them, but it must be a big party, with lots of balloons and a huge cake - oh and don't forget the candles! For others, a birthday is something to fear, another year older, another year gone! They don't want any fuss, they've already expressly told you "I don't want anything! Nothing! Really I'm fine" and the mere thought of a birthday party would bring them out in a cold sweat and have them running for the door! These are the two extremes of emotions, that something as simple as a celebrating the day you were born can evoke, but if you're like us you'll probably fall somewhere between the two!

So in conclusion, if you strip away all the presents, cards and cake, the "lovers" and the "loathers", what exactly is a birthday? It's the opportunity to thank someone for the simple fact that they were born, and show them just how grateful you are, that they were!