Large families face natural dilemmas, and we deal with them with innovation. We adapt – we buy larger vans, remodel to increase the number of bedrooms, carry on small businesses to make ends meet. Children are a blessing, not a burden, and God provides us with the ideas necessary to survive.
One dilemma is the birthday. We want to celebrate the life of each child, and if we had one or two kids, there wouldn’t be a problem. However, with 13 kids – from newborn to 23 years –celebrating birthdays could burn this family out! We’d go broke, let alone go crazy.
In 1999 we developed the Jeub Birthday Bash, a one-day party that celebrates all the children’s birthdays for the entire year. We have celebrated three years of birthdays — a total of 27 individual parties — condensed into three bashes. These parties are innovative, cost-efficient and an absolute blast that has become a family tradition.
Innovation, for Very Practical Reasons
The birthday bash is a must for big families. First, you will save money. A typical birthday party with friends for one of your children will run $50 to $100. Expense of food, cake and present for 13 kids would run us over $1000 a year–and that’s a conservative estimate. Good grief, I have bills to pay. Having one party per year for the entire clan runs us between $300 and $500. Not a bad savings.
Second, extended families have only one party to attend. I have to remind myself that our relatives — many of whom have not bought into the big-family philosophy — would find it daunting to celebrate 13 birthdays throughout the year. The highlight of celebration would lose its festivity. My family has been overjoyed at the idea of one party a year for all the kids, and they treat it like a national holiday.
Third, this is a great opportunity to have a big party. We invite our neighbors and friends along with our family. Our last birthday bash had over 180 people consisting of over 100 kids. It was a blast!
The final reason birthday bashes work so nicely is because we, as a family, get the opportunity to enjoy each child’s birthday on a more individual level. On the mornings of his or her actual birth date, the rest of the family will cook breakfast, wrap individual presents and serve the child in bed. The child picks their favorite meal for the evening dinner, and we follow with a small cake. No big party for the individual kid, but we still celebrate their birth.
A Yearly Family Carnival
The days preceding the Jeub Birthday Bash are like the days preceding Christmas or Easter. The Bash is the time when friends from church, home-school group, AWANA and the neighborhood come over at once. The festivities are planned carefully, and more than enough moms are willing to help out.
We had our first and second birthday bashes at our home in Kent, Minnesota. A friend brought his two horses and gave rides for the beginning of the day. My mother, a former youth coordinator at her church, led games at the neighboring park. We put up a volleyball net for the older kids and friends, and we had a pinata across the street at the basketball court. We served sloppy joes and potato chips and ice cream dessert. We finished the day off with s’mores around the fire.
Our first bash was a great success, and the second was even better. It happened that a traveling mission was in town for the county fair starting the following week. After making arrangements with the pastor, we popped a large canvas tent in our front yard and had face painting throughout the day. The painters would share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the children. Four kids in our neighborhood made professions that day. We still had games, horse rides, food and s’mores, but the fact that four neighborhood children accepted Christ made it all the more worthwhile.
At the end of 2000 we moved to Colorado. Our 2001 bash was put off till September, and the kids were bugging me about having it. Time was thin, we were in a new community, and I was tempted to skip the year. I was Super Bad Guy for a few days till I came to my senses. How could I take my kids’ birthday party away?
So we picked a date, sent out invitations and began making it happen. The bash was a huge success. Our neighbor brought her miniature horse for rides, we made a pinata, made homemade root beer in the back yard and played games. We served hotdogs, chips and beans. The campfire was joined with praise music. My children enjoyed the ultimate gift opening — plenty of new toys!
The Jeubs celebrated 2002, 2003, and 2004 Birthday Bashes in similar fashion. We have begun to create themes for each bash and conduct treasure hunts accordingly. In 2002, the “cowboy” theme had many cowboy games. In 2003, the “sailor” theme searched treasure. And in 2004, the “jungle safari” theme searched for El Dorado (the lost city of gold).
We chose to skip the Birthday Bash in 2005 because we were expecting twins; hosting a couple hundred people would have been too much, and Wendy’s back was bothering her. Instead, I spent $250 brining all the kids to Six Flags in Denver. This gave Wendy a day off from taking care of the kids (she stayed home) plus saved us a couple hundred dollars. While the kids loved the rides and the time at Six Flags (a fun event we seldom buy into), they all are looking forward to their next Jeub Birthday Bash in 2006!
The 2007 [Insert Name Here] Birthday Bash
Your birthday bash can be a great time to open your home to your friends, neighbors and family. We have done certain things each year that have made our bash unique to the Jeubs.
- Games . While in Minnesota, my mother hosted games. In Colorado I usually solicit help from another family so that Wendy and I can greet people.
- Pinata . As a home school craft, my children custom make their own pinata. They have made Bob the Tomato (1999), a Crayola crayon (2000) and a red, white and blue star (2001), a horse (2002), a fish (2003), and a coconut (2004). Since we make our own, we are able to make sure they are big enough to stuff a ton of candy.
- Horse rides . While we don’t own our own, we know friends willing to take over and offer rides. The kids love it!
- Campfire . We are introducing our Colorado friends to real Minnesotan campfires — s’mores and all.
- Gift opening . Wendy and I buy a large family gift for all the kids. One year was a camping tent and another a new puppy.
You may not live in the mountains of Colorado or the rural areas of northern Minnesota. Campfires and horse rides would be out of the question. However, you can customize your own birthday bash to meet your family’s interests. Think of what you and your children — and your extended family and children’s friends — like to do together. Incorporate these activities into an entire day of festivities. Here are some ideas:
- Pool access? Have a pool party.
- Park access? Have a cookout.
- Animals? Have a petting zoo.
- Have money? Take over a restaurant.
- Short on money? Have a potluck.
Pick a date, draw up invitations and send them out. Be sure to ask for RSVPs. Custom make a party that your kids will never forget.
We have only done this for 6 years, now a tradition in the Jeub Family. It makes perfect sense for large families to have one big bash rather than bloating each child’s birthday peppered throughout the year. Give your birthday bash a try, and let us know how it went!
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