We usually celebrate our birthday in the UK with a birthday party, our friends send us birthday cards, someone bakes a birthday cake (with a candle for each year), and we get those all important birthday presents (wrapped in birthday paper and ribbons), just to celebrate surviving another year.

In our family all the birthdays seem to come at once. There is one at Christmas, one in February and then we have to wait until mid summer when they come thick and fast. Even the newest addition to the family was born on August 10th, her great grandfather’s and uncle’s birthday.

This year the solution was one big family garden party with each birthday person inviting along some friends and neighbours. It went on for most of the day and, because there was more than one birthday being celebrated, there was of course more than one cake  – complete with candles. Fortunately we have a large kitchen and an even larger garden so the party was allowed to spill over wherever it wanted to. Little ones ran around the garden, swung on the swing, kicked a football and screamed with laughter at a bubble machine, while the rest of us looked on admiring their energy while we ate cakes and all the rest in the conservatory , the kitchen or sitting on chairs in the garden. The vegetable garden was toured and people went home with samples of cake, as well as pots of herbs, recipes or bunches of flowers. It was a lovely day.

One lady farmer nearby celebrated by holding an open house in her barn, an open barn really, with lots of stalls to raise money for a favourite local charity – you could buy food and drink, plants, jewellery, bric a brac and all the rest and even have your face painted. Half the village turned up, but there was enough for all.

I have been to some parties that are just for children, but I prefer these “any age” events. The men can get together and discuss sport , the women talk about their pregnancies or whoever hasn’t turned up, and the children have a great time without too much interference. You can try and organise games such as pass the parcel or pin the tail on a donkey, but these can seem contrived.

On other occasions we have held parties at the swimming pool, the zoo and on a beach. Some might have considered the last one a disaster as it poured with rain and we had to light candles and cut the cake in the car. We also forgot funny hats so made them from newspaper. My daughters, now grown up, were 3 and 5 that weekend, but that is still a very happy memory for them.

In the United Kingdom another way in which birthdays are celebrated is by receiving a message from the queen – but you do have to be 100 or more for that. One lady, who was several years past her centenary, recently complained because the queen had sent her the same card every year.  (I wonder if she’ll have to send herself a card when she reaches her centenary.)

The birthday cake is an important feature. Over the years I’ve seen and made them in all sorts of designs – even one with a working train set for a friend who loves steam trains. We have also had spiders made of liquorice, dragons, caterpillars and a teddy bear. When my daughter asked for a teddy bear shaped cake I thought ‘No problem’. And then she said she wanted the bear standing up and it had to be big enough for her whole class at school. I ended up building a sort of scaffold by inserting stiff straws. We only had to carry it around the corner, but I think I held my breath the whole way.

When we had a triple party – two 18’s and a 21-  the amount of candles used set off fire alarms. That party was hosted by a dance teacher who taught everyone to salsa. Another was a drumming workshop which everyone enjoyed.

So, whenever it is, celebrate it in style, and have a “Happy Birthday”.