As a little kid, birthdays meant spreading a sheet in the yard and the whole family eating outside. Juicy Juice - a treat! - and good food and one of mom's amazing cakes (chocolate with chocolate icing, my request every year). A few friends sleeping over. Presents to unwrap: books, first and foremost. A toy sword or bow. Maybe something especially cool like a new pocketknife (I still bear a faint, slim scar from where my very first closed on the end of my finger when I was 9).
Since then I've had big city birthdays and small town celebrations. Drunken weekends complete with candles stuck on beer can to be blown out and birthdays when I didn't drink anything stronger than gingerale punch. Theme parties of all flavors, friends dressed like pirates or bible thumpers or trailer trash stereotypes. Cook outs and pizza dinners and pot lucks.
Some folks don't mark their birthdays, preferring to keep quiet and ignore the whole thing. Me? I like gathering my friends and family, throwing a bash as a present to myself and everyone, marking another year still kicking. For my 31st, I put together a punk show. Two local bands, friends of mine, making noise at my favorite bar. A sheet on the lawn or a gig at St. Mike's - it's not so bad getting older.