What “Gone Girl” Can Teach Us about Birthday Traditions

“Gone Girl” and my son’s recent 13th birthday have something in common. 

Beyond handsome leading men (admittedly, I’m biased), a central plot element to both the movie and birthdays in our house is a scavenger hunt.

In the movie (remarkably faithful to the book by Gillian Flynn), one of the first scenes shows a treasure hunt the wife leaves for her husband to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary.   We learn that “Amazing Amy” loves to create clues that lead her husband to a gift and the next clue.

Like "Gone Girl", one of the traditions in our house is that we “hunt” for birthday gifts. I wish I could tell you that we also create clues as creative as the ones in the movie.  But no such luck.   I just inhale deeply and announce, “I smell gifts.”  

The birthday person then starts racing around the house in search of the gifts, while being told whether they are getting “hotter” or “colder.” Sometimes the gifts are found immediately; other times a gift may remain hidden in an unlikely spot for days. It still amazes me how much my kids look forward to the gift hunt and how much fun it is for them. 

As with most traditions, it’s hard to remember how this one started. I suspect I came up with it in an effort to prolong the excitement of gift giving.  What made me sniff for gifts?  No clue!  But the odd proclamation of “I smell gifts” is something that’s as important to my kids as the actual gifts.

Because that’s the thing about traditions, they make us feel connected to something larger than ourselves.  They bring us joy and comfort and remind of us happy times.   While I’m quite sure my kids won’t remember most of the gifts they received during childhood, I’m positive they will remember our gift hunts fondly.

What are YOUR traditions for birthday celebrations?   Whether it’s a special cake made, a silver coin given, or allowing the birthday person to select the movie for the family to watch, congratulations! You are making wonderful memories for you and your children.  If you don’t have special rituals that you do year after year, then start a tradition.  It’s as easy as inhaling.

I'm currently working on a book about birthday traditions.    Please leave a comment and let me know how you celebrate.


You might also be interested to know…

  • One of the favorite gifts my son “hunted” for this year was the Sky Gliderz.  These foam stunt planes are “launched” and then loop and glide in unpredictable ways.  The package said they “loop and swoop over 120 feet,” and based on how my kids ran all over trying to catch them, this seems to be a reasonable estimate.  One note, launch them in an open space or, like me, you will be getting out the giant ladder and a broom to rescue the plane from the roof of your house!                                                                               
  • Our tradition of a homemade birthday cake literally flopped this year.  The cake wouldn’t come out of the giant cupcake shaped pan I was trying for the first time.  After piecing it back together, I poured some raspberry filling into the center…which caused the fragile cake to split apart into even more pieces.  I did my best to turn lemons into lemonade—mini birthday trifles!
  • I used the Roman numeral birthday candles because my son loves math.  I've also used them for people celebrating "bigger" birthdays.  It's fun to see the guests "calculate" the birthday.

z birthday trifle wm

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