What makes a great birthday?

Friends and family of course. Homemade donuts and a campfire don’t hurt either.

Living with Amish friends in Lancaster a few years back, we discovered that I and a brother of those friends share the same birthday. I’ve been around ten years longer than he has, however, so we’re not twins.

Yesterday we had a chance to celebrate together again, with kettle cooked sweet potato chips and a mutual carrot cake (decorated with flowers snipped from the garden-the baker was also something of a floral artist). Add about 30 family and friends and you’ve got a festive evening.

The older I get the less I think about birthdays. When you’re a child you can’t wait for the cake and presents. When a teen not having enough birthdays leaves you in limited-privilege limbo. Later some come to dread them. I guess you can dwell on birthdays, the passing of time and all that. At 34 I’m mostly indifferent about the day itself, though glad to be here and for occasions like yesterday.

These ruminations led me to think of my oldest living relative, a 96-year-old great aunt who survived two world wars and a half century of communism. If I ever reach that age, I hope I’m celebrating as she still does-with gusto, a smile on my face and surrounded by people that matter.

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    1. Valerie

      Good points Erik, as a teen there’s all those “goal” birthdays that bring priveleges, 16, 18, 21-

      Your topic reminds me of meeting Mrs. Raber of Raber’s Bookstore in Holmes County. Met her for the first time. She was so joyful, and said “My birthday is tomorrow!” I thought that was so cool that she was excited about it-as she’s in the golden years, and so I replied they keep coming whether we want them to or not. Her comment was “they are a blessing from God”
      Well, yes, they are. How soon we forget that in our culture which keeps striving to reverse the evidence of our aging bodies-especially us women with wrinkle creams and hair dye-as if God made a mistake in His design of us.

      1. Super comment Valerie, thanks for sharing Mrs Raber’s great attitude. They can be infectious.

    2. Betsy Thompson

      Valerie, I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish I had the chance to meet Mrs. Raber–she sounds like my kind of person!

    3. Marilyn in NY

      What makes a great birthday

      First of all I wish you a Happy Birthday Erik. I really liked what that Mrs Raber said. As I am getting older-much older than you-I thought how many I don’t have left rather than how many I do have left. Will have to change my thinking.



    5. Alecia in Ny


      Happy birthday Erik. I think Mrs. Raber is a very wise woman and we all could take a lesson from her. 🙂

    6. John

      Happy Birthday

      Are you going to stop in??


    7. Richard from Amish Stories

      My priorities have definitely changed!

      My priorities have definitely changed the way I view all of my birthdays now, and what has replaced the birthday cakes and gifts is good health and certain folks around me being around for my next birthday. Richard. http://www.Amishstories.net

    8. LeeAnn

      Congratulations on finding one of your Amish friends with a birthday the same as yours to help you celebrate! Im sure it was extra special being with those you love so much.

      Happy Birthday Erik! Im sure you will live to the ripe old age of your aunt. I believe you told us before that your grandmother is still alive as well. I know the Polish people have long long lives. Your still young and many years to go.

      For me Im getting older and just hoping my kids will be around to help me celebrate a birthday or two.

    9. Kim in NY

      Comment on What makes a great birthday?

      Happy Birthday, Erik! I really enjoy your writing, I hope you keep doing this for a long time to come!
      Yes, that Mrs. Raber has a wonderful outlook, I will have to tell about her attitude to my almost 93 year old mother-in-law this weekend if she needs cheering up!
      Have a great visit here in the States, Erik!

    10. Alice M. Aber


      Again, Happy Birthday Erik!!

      I will be 54 in November and still celebrate and cherrish each birthday. They are a gift from God and I am grateful for each one I get.

      Blessings, Alice

    11. Sounds like a great day and yes, I think if you’re around ’til you’re 96, you will celebrate just as your aunt does. Happy, happy birthday!

    12. Erik, what a thoughtful post. You’re so poetic…

      Happy Birthday

    13. Doughnuts

      Now we KNOW these aren’t good for you, but Amish home-made cinnamon-sugar doughnuts are THE BEST. Every Thursday, an Amish Market opens her in Laurel. MD. They close up shop around 3 PM on Saturday. They come down from Lancaster, PA. Every Thursday my husband buys three gallon of Amish organic milk (in sparkling-clean glass bottles), low-sodium Heidi Ann cheese for himself, and ONE doughnut for me. SWEET!

    14. Birthdays

      Forgot to wish you Happy Birthday, Erik. I guess I was thinking only of myself. It’s my birthday two. I am twice as old as you, plus ten.

    15. Happy Birthday Erik!

      I enjoy your posts so much and wish you a happy birthday and many more blessings from God!

    16. Anne

      Happy Birthday to you both!

      Erik and Forsythia,

      Wishing you many many more VERY happy birthdays!

      We should rejoice with our advancing years, and not be discouraged to be getting older. Hard to see that with the surrounding youth culture fascination but it’s what God values, so congrats!

      I just turned 58 and have been working hard to become healthy once again. I’m about to run the Bird In Hand Half Marathon in Lancaster County (in 2 weeks) and can’t wait! Getting older has challenges, but (sometimes) it’s what you do with them…

      May God bless and keep you in the coming year!

    17. Lin

      Man gives away money for 65th birthday

      Doug Eaton celebrated his 65th birthday by giving away $5 bills for 65 minutes on a street corner in Oklahoma City. A friend gave him the idea to celebrate his 65th birthday by doing 65 random acts of kindness. So he did, he spent 65 minutes giving away five-dollar bills, ending up giving out $375.

      Thanks for telling us about your birthday, Erik. Birthday blessing wishes to you.

    18. Don Curtis

      Happy Birthday

      A happy birthday to you, Eric. By the way, my son Mark’s birthday is on Monday, August 27th. He will be 60! Count it…60!. But, then again, I will be 90 in November so 60 doesn’t seem that old to me. But to think of my son, the little boy that I taught to ride a bike with training wheels and play pitch and catch is now 60! Wow! Time really flies.

    19. Alice Mary

      You don't have to wrap it!

      Happy slightly belated birthday, Erik!

      August is a “popular” birthday month in my family—my son celebrated his 36th on 8/18, my sister her 75th on 8/8, and 3 relatives will celebrate on 8/26! Sept. is pretty popular, too (I’ll turn 60, daughter 30, niece 18…and on, and on!)

      The best birthday gift I can think of is to be happy you’ve lived to celebrate another year on this earth. I guess that would equate to a “positive attitude”, with which ANYTHING is possible. May you always be “re-gifted” with that, for as long as you live!

      Alice Mary

    20. Kentuckylady717


      I agree with Richard….my priorites sure changed too…no more birthdays for me….I like everyone else’s….but just try to forget mine :)I always tell my kids, birthdays are for kids….mine is just another day….I am always so glad when that day is over…..:)I always say just another day older…….

    21. Theresa

      Happy Birthday to you Erik. Really enjoy the articles on the Amish. Please keep them coomming as long as you can.

    22. Free Birthday Dinner;

      Be sure to have breakfast at Jennies Diner on RT 30 just west of Paradise in Ronks. Cheap, good and lots of food! You two could have gone for your free birthday dinners to the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in New Holland. But go hungry! I’ll be there Saturday when I hit 54. Happy Birthday to you as well.

    23. Julie Turner


      Happy Birthday to you Eric. Birthdays are great and its the one day when I can have a big piece of cake without feeling guilty.
      Hope you had a great day and lots of cake!!!! Julie

    24. marie b

      Happy Birthday Erik, sometimes as we age the best birthdays are the simple ones. The reflection of years gone by and the future that is to be. Happy Birthday!

    25. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      My Father’s Age Game

      Happy birthday, Erik!

      If you want to mess with people’s minds, refer to your age as the year you where born in, for instance this year I’ll be a very healthy and young looking 78.

    26. Wish I could give more than a blanket thanks tonight for all these b day wishes but the little boys where Im staying were riled up tonight and after finally getting to bed I am posting this by light of a flashlight on a tiny Kindle keypad. So thank you all for the present of these thoughtful words, and goodnight 🙂

    27. Carolyn B

      Happy Birthday Erik

      So you’re an August birthday too. 🙂 Sounds like it was a good day.

      I’ve found that beginning my birthday with morning Mass is one of my favorite starts to the day. Though I’m not the least bit partial to the saints’ feast day on my birthday.

      My favorite adult birthday was the year I took a trip to Branson and attended an Oak Ridge Boys’ concert all by myself. I’d reserved a front row seat and loved every minute of it.

    28. Annmarie

      Happy Birthday Eric! The comments made me remember something my friends and I were discussing. I am 38 years old and we were talking about aging…and we realized aging is Not a bad thing, because look at what the alternative is.. Don’t think any of us are hurrying to our death..lol. So, I delight in the fact that the Lord allows me to see another b’day. Seems like you truly enjoyed yours:)

    29. Theresa

      Glad you had a wonderful birthday Erik! May God bless you always!

    30. Katya

      Happy Belated Birthday, Eric! My birthday was the 20th!

      1. One more thanks for all the wishes…I discovered there were a lot more people having birthdays in Lancaster this week (no shock there 🙂 ). We also had a surprise birthday for a friend.

    31. Jessica M

      Happy Birthday to YOU, Erik! I just turned 35 on the 25th myself. August is a GREAT month! 🙂