Birthdays can become a yearly source of security, trust, joy, fun, acceptance, happiness, connection, and love for children. Rituals create feelings of awe and magic, and the understanding that life is sacred. Celebrations warm the hearts of children and all those around them, creating strong family bonds.
Marking birthdays can enrich, inspire and honour a person’s life, and not just be about receiving presents (although presents of course are fun!). To be ‘seen’ and celebrated is a true gift. The Spirit of the birthday occasion is also celebrated. The following ideas will feed children’s soul lives, and yours too!
The Birthday Verse
The night before a child’s birthday, as a loving ritual, you can say this Birthday Verse when you are tucking your child into bed, inserting the appropriate ages and people:
When I have said my evening prayer
And my clothes are folded on the chair
And [Mummy/Daddy] switches off the light
I’ll still be [age] years old tonight.
But from the very break of day
Before the children rise and play
Before the greenness turns to gold
Tomorrow I’ll be [birthday age] years old.
[Birthday number] candles on my cake,
[Birthday number] kisses when I wake.
I have written this lovely verse on a card, kept in my special birthday basket, which I use to set up the birthday festivals each year. Children love the rhyming words, and you can give them kisses when they wake too!
The Birthday Story
Tell your child the magical Waldorf-Steiner Birthday Story, if it inspires you. I have heard many forms of this story and have joined all the parts I like together. Here is my adapted version:
Once upon a time there was a little soul, who lived above the stars and was friends with the moon, the stars and the sun. One day the little soul was dancing and playing above the stars, when they suddenly parted, and the little soul looked down and saw a new and beautiful land. The little soul ran to the guardian angel and said, “Today I saw a new and beautiful land. May I visit there, please?”
The guardian angel replied, “First you need to receive three special gifts.” It was not long before the little soul received the three gifts. The sun gave a warm heart, the stars a bright light to shine all around, and the moon a silver ribbon so that the little soul would always be able to find the way back.
The little soul ran to the guardian angel once again. “I have received my three special gifts. Now may I visit the new and beautiful land?” The guardian angel replied, “Be patient, my child. It is almost your time.”
That night the little soul had the most beautiful dream. In the dream the little soul visited the new land and saw many faces and people. The little soul ran up to two special people, gave them a hug, and asked, “Will you be my mummy, and will you be my daddy?” And they said, “Yes, we will!” [Please say members appropriate to your unique family.]
The next morning the little soul awoke and ran to the guardian angel once more and spoke of the wonderful dream. The guardian angel said, “It is now your time.”
The little soul was led to the rainbow bridge, where the guardian angel stopped and said, “There is one more thing I have to ask of you. Please give me your wings: you do not need them in this new and beautiful land. I will keep them safe for you until your return.” The little soul took off the wings, and the guardian angel led the little soul across the rainbow bridge into loving arms.
It has been [birthday age] years now since the little soul came to earth. The first present to be given in the new land was a name, and the name was [birthday child’s name]. There are many people in this new land who love [birthday child’s name] – Mummy and Daddy, Grandpa and Grandma, and many friends. [Name your unique family members – brothers and sisters too.] The stars visit every night, the sun shines every day, and sometimes the rainbow appears. And the guardian angel is always watching over.
You may have to practise this story a few times to say it without crying! It reminds us of the preciousness of life and families, and the uniqueness of every child on the Earth. It whispers of the wonders and comforts of the spiritual world. Enjoy!
The Birthday Story can be told as a bedtime tale during the week leading up to or the night before a birthday. It can be told as a puppet play (with little dolls and play cloths) on the actual day, at the party, or just for your family’s pleasure. This story enriches the lives of children: it is a ‘treasure tale’.
The Birthday Spiral
On the eve of a child’s birthday, it is lovely to set up a special Birthday Spiral. Clear a small table in your home and place on it a beautiful coloured play cloth, and then set on the cloth a spiral (or circle) of candles (perhaps tea lights in glass jars), the same number of candles as the child’s birthday age. Surround the candles with photos of your child with their loved ones, at various ages. Around the table you can add special crystals, precious things from nature and one large candle from which to light the smaller ones. Now you are set for tomorrow’s birthday ceremony. Siblings of the birthday child love to stay up to create this special table.
The Birthday Ceremony
Make (or buy) a crown of gold card or felt, and a cloak. Adorned with them, your child lights each candle from the big candle (or, if your child is too young, a parent can light the candles). When the first candle is lit, family members tell stories about the child in his or her first year; for example, remembering a favourite toy, or recalling any funny and loving occasion. Moving on to the next candle, which represents the second year in the birthday child’s life, share loving tales from that time. Continue in this way around the spiral or circle until all the candles have been lit. “When you were, one, two, three, four…” After the stories, a special wish can be given to the child by each family member.
The unique child has been loved. The journey of a sacred soul to the earth has been honoured. The spiritual foundation has been laid. Now it is time to open the presents.
Find a special basket or box to place all the birthday ritual items in: cloths, candles (tea lights and jars), crown and cloak, verse and story. It will then be easy to set up the birthday festival for each family member. The festival will grow in love and joy over the years.
Remember to hold a birthday celebration for everyone in your family, not just children. Please put on that crown, Dad! An adult’s life can be recalled in 10-year cycles! Children love to hear tales about their parents.
Birthday Treasure Hunt
My children loved the game of Present Hunt with clues (and so did I when I was a little girl!). This birthday game can be played even before your child can read: you read the clues for your child to then hunt down the presents. For example, a clue left on the bedside table might say, “I love to clean clothes.” The next clue is placed at the washing machine, and so on, until after solving five clues the child finds the presents at the end. The clues can get more difficult as children grow older. My older children helped to write the clues for their siblings (and parents!); the family tradition is being passed on.
I will leave you with an inspiring quote from Rudolf Steiner: “Festivals are the nodal points of the year that unite us with the Spirit of the Universe.” Celebrate each other this year!
Lou Harvey-Zahra is passionate about strengthening family connections and celebrating the magic of childhood. She is the author of the best-selling books Happy Child, Happy Home and Creative Discipline, Connected Family, both published by Floris Books. She is an international presenter and is JUNO’s ‘My Teen’ columnist. She lives with her family in Melbourne, Australia. (Accurate at the time this issue went to print)
This article includes edited excerpts from Lou’s book Happy Child, Happy Home: Conscious Parenting and Creative Discipline. The Birthday Story has been retold for a beautiful new children’s book called Through the Rainbow, illustrated by Sara Parrilli and also published by Floris Books. All author royalties from this book will go to children’s charities. www.florisbooks.co.uk.
First published in Issue 55 (Summer 2018) of JUNO: