Maybe it all started with the 12 days of Christmas ... which is, in one sense, a birthday celebration. It seems that these days, one day of birthday celebrating just isn’t enough. For most children, the celebration lasts days, if not a week. For Frank’s 10th birthday last week, it started with cake when we had dinner out the night before. Then he had cupcakes for breakfast (a family birthday tradition) and opened his gift from us on the day itself, was allowed to go to school out of uniform and got to choose what we had for dinner. He got more family gifts the following weekend when we gathered to celebrate multiple birthdays that fall close together, and then had a party with friends. All told, the birthday events spanned a week. That doesn’t count his grandma’s birthday gift, which came weeks early: tickets to a professional football game, timed to make it more likely they wouldn’t freeze. I have a reason for everything that happened and how it got all spread out — but when I write it all down, it seems like a lot. Caroline’s birthday will probably be spread over two or three days, because it falls on a weekend, making it more convenient to celebrate on the day itself. But she’ll still take her out-of-uniform day on the Friday or Monday closest to her birthday. Teresa, on the other hand, will turn 1 on a Wednesday, so her party will have to fall on a nearby weekend. However, she’ll get by with just one party, not having any real friends who aren’t also family friends yet. I don’t remember birthdays being such a big deal when I was a child. We had parties, but they were often just a few friends at the birthday child’s house, maybe on a weekend or maybe after school, eating cake and playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey or Hot Potato. I think we used real hot potatoes, too. No one invited the whole class. Now, with smaller children, many parties are whole-class affairs. They have to be if you want to pass invitations out at school. As the children get older, the parties get smaller. Kids have their own friends with whom they want to spend time; activities are more suited to smaller groups. In our home at least, parties with friends don’t necessarily happen every year. In my sister’s home, with four kids, birthday parties are combined. The important thing, to me, is to make sure each child understands that they are loved, that their presence among us is something to celebrate. But that has to be tempered with their presence isn’t more important than anyone else’s, and that maybe the reason Christmas is celebrated the world over is that Jesus’ presence is most important of all.