Storytelling, Family Rituals and the Birthday Fairies

21 Nov

Family RitualsAll you blogging parents out there – make hay while the sun shines because one day soon, your child will turn 13 and they will make you swear (on bibles and graves no less!) to never mention them on your blog because it’s random and freaky and embarrassing. In short, turning up, in any way (especially photos) on your mum’s blog is SOCIAL SUICIDE.

I have pointed out, on more than one occasion, that I am not well known (I like to call it undiscovered) and it’s highly unlikely anyone would recognise them but they roll their eyes and repeat that knowing phrase that is the cornerstone of puberty – “You just don’t get it!”.

But because Neve turned 13 years old yesterday and because I know that precious memories hang on family rituals and traditions, I am going to risk all, and introduce some very old friends of mine. Readers – (drum roll) meet the Birthday Fairies.

I can’t really put my finger on the exact origins of these glittery little folk but they turned up on Neve’s first birthday. Molly was three and a half. They seemed to instinctively know that despite feeling excited about her little sister having a birthday, Molly needed a little encouragement to stay on track.

So on the eve of Neve’s first birthday, somewhere around midnight, when the house was uncharacteristically quiet, the Birthday Fairies crept in. We know this because they left dainty little talcum powder footprints throughout the house. They then got straight to work decorating the birthday girl’s bedroom. There were streamers, balloons, glitter (remnants of which can still be found today) and little Christmas bells hanging on a string across the room. On the bedside table, the Birthday Fairies left a gift. That first year, if memory serves me correctly, it was a miniature tea set, complete with a tiny silver serving tray. The footprints also trailed mysteriously into Molly’s room, along with scatterings of fairy dust, glitter and some wayward balloons. And there, balancing on the pile of books on Molly’s table, they left a small box with a matching miniature tea set. The excitement of that first birthday was lost on Neve, she was way more interested in the box but Molly was in heaven. Dolls were found and a party was planned and lemonade tea was served on a perfectly tiny silver tray.

Through the years, we discovered quite a bit about the Birthday Fairies – like the fact that the presents were so small because it was tricky to fly with an oversized gift. But don’t get me wrong – the Birthday Fairies were strong all right. Some years they would actually stretch the arms and legs of the birthday girl so she would look all ‘growned up’. Of course, they did this ever so gently but to great effect. After unwrapping the presents and kicking through a mountain of balloons, it was our job to measure the arms and legs of the birthday girl and pronounce her bigger than the year before. Thankfully those fairies never let us down. It also became a tradition of its own to leave the decorations in the room till the balloons grew old and wrinkly and the streamers begged to be released from the walls. Then and only then, was the room restored to its pre-birthday state. The glitter, however, was harder to dispose of and would be found in nooks and crannies around the house for months afterwards.

Life wasn’t always so sweet for the Birthday Fairies. One year, after much debate with their cousin about the validity of this little group of birthday do gooders, it was decided that Molly, Neve and Alan would stay up all night and uncover the truth. I am not sure how the Birthday Fairies actually made it through the booby traps and the tricks and sleeping bags, but next morning, the room was decorated perfectly and three presents were neatly wrapped and delivered. Alan was far from convinced but it seemed the Birthday Fairies had won the first round.

A year or so later, Neve ran out from school, got in the car with eyes wide open and told me the awful truth -the Birthday Fairies didn’t visit her friends. She had gone through the whole ritual with her class and no one had ever heard of them before. What could we (meaning you) do to get the Birthday Fairies to visit them?
Molly, who was a big kid of eight or nine by then, said with the hint of a smile in her voice, “I think they need to ask their own mums for help.”
“Oh,” Neve said, thoughtfully. We were at the traffic lights by now and I could see Neve in the rear vision mirror, slowly piecing the puzzle together. I held my breath. I mean, I was quite attached to the Birthday Fairies and not quite ready to say goodbye.
“I totally get it,” Neve smiled… “their mum needs to leave the window open.” Molly and I burst out laughing. By then, the lights had changed and cars were honking their horns. But we were still laughing. The Birthday Fairies had won again.

Our girls, it seems, are quickly growing up. We hardly recognise them with their lap tops and ipods, their dresses, make up and hair straighteners. Along the way, the Birthday Fairies have been content to take a back seat and watch the celebrations from afar but for some reason, I really missed them this year. I’m pretty sure they’re going to make a giant comeback in 2012. Because really it doesn’t matter how old you are (or how old you think you are), you can always do with a little magic on your birthday.

What rituals and traditions are part of your family celebrations? I’d love to hear about them.

  1. Joanna commented 1004 days ago

    I don’t have kids and my family was not good on anything like this. I experienced these family traditions through books and stories, like this one. :-) Lovely… do you think, if I left a window open on my birthday…………..?

  2. Beth Cregan commented 1004 days ago

    Hi joanna, I’d definitely leave the window open! For my last birthday, they sent me a pile of books through Amazon ( and paid for it with my credit card!)

  3. Sophie Eikli commented 947 days ago

    This is a funny story, Beth. Maybe… maybe the birthday fairies will come for me.

  4. Beth Cregan commented 946 days ago

    Hi Sophie! Lovely to hear from you. Glad you liked the story and yes – I am sure the birthday fairies will visit you this year. Especially if you share this story at the dinner table! LOL

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