How can you have a birthday party without the hassle of invites or money or providing food? Attend a public event and party with strangers!
My birthday has always fallen on or around Thanksgiving, and I am ridiculously introverted, so it’s been easy to forgo celebrations of the party type. There was a year, however, in which I spent waaaay too much money on a “fancy” dinner that taught the kiddo and I we much prefer simple home cooking to noisy trendy restaurants.
In my younger years I’d sometimes lament the fact that all my friends were out of town for the holidays, but embracing my solo nature has led to absolute delight at staying in with a book, a bottle of wine and some good cheese. And pumpkin pie! This has been a tradition for several years and doesn’t make a dent in the grocery budget since I typically have plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers to stretch a few weeks.
This year, my birthday fell on Friday and the kiddo was home, so we decided to join a bicycle ride open to all skill levels. We met the group at a local brewery at 4pm, and received a gift provided by a local bike shop (Free Present!). Rolled out at dusk and I was grinning the entire 11 miles to the break site — I was well-layered, there was almost no wind, and the 35F air was rejuvenating. I’d only ridden one group ride prior to this, an introduction ride with a local bike club, so I found it incredibly fun riding in a gathering of 25+ people (Free Party Guests!), following taillights and riding in the glow of strong headlights along the riverfront. I saw parts of my city I’d never noticed before, and a view of the skyline that glittered against the cloudy sky.
The bonfire site was nestled in a semi-secluded wooded section next to the river, with snacks and drinks hidden earlier (Free Birthday Drink!) and food donated by participants (Free Birthday S’more!). Stories were bantered back and forth, and the atmosphere was relaxed with a lot of laughter. After the site was cleaned up and the group readied to leave, fireworks were set off (Free Fireworks!). The ride back was just chilly enough to feel special, and in full darkness the surrounding bike lights and a few bluetooth speakers made for a very festive ride (Free Adventure!).
Back at the brewery, we each received drink tickets (Free Beer!) and congregated in an area of the bar. The bartender, on learning it was my birthday, wouldn’t let me pay for my second beer or any other drink for my kiddo and his girlfriend (Free Birthday Drinks!). The group was large enough to make chatting easy with no pressure to socialize, and everyone already had at least one common interest in cycling. I learned a lot of good winter biking tips from a few folks, and am pretty excited to attempt the next ride in December (Free Gift for the Future!).
Our total dollars spent: $5, in the tip jar. Total hours of sheer joy at being alive and hearing laughter and bicycle rubber on pavement: Seven. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and woke up the next morning feeling so grateful for my family, my community, and having the rest of my life to look forward to — THAT, for me, is what’s really worth celebrating.