Everybody feels differently towards their birthday. For some of us, our birthdays mean we’re getting older, and for others it’s just another excuse to celebrate. My birthday has always been a day that I want to celebrate with all the people I love – all of us talking about me and what it means to have me in their lives (self-obsession runs in the family).

Five days before my 25th birthday I had started dropping hints to my family that this is a milestone birthday and we shouldn’t just let it go. And the standard response would be that we are short on money this month so we will have to push any kind of celebrations until my next paycheck. But for me, we either do the birthday on the right day or we don’t do it at all. So I was pretty convinced that nothing is happening (and nothing was happening).

Come September 6, 2016, I wake up early (10 am) because mom wanted to go for grocery. Nothing happens. Two hours later, I’m in the living room watching National Geographic and silently questioning my family’s love for me. Nothing happens. Two more hours later, mom tells me she’s made pulao and ras malai for lunch because I like it. It was very sweet of mom to think of me when cooking lunch and I try my best to share her excitement. Surely this is not all that is going to happen to celebrate my silver jubilee on this planet? Another two hours later, I started getting pissed at mom for waking me up early and then procrastinating on the grocery all day.

Finally, when the day was over and I had already given up on any kind of gift or celebration or people talking about me, mom decides to go for grocery. Annoyed, I pick up my bag and go sit in the car with a big round face full of annoyance.

So we go to the closest supermarket and mom starts browsing through special offers on chocolates and candies. Me in my most irritated tone “Amma, this is not grocery. Grocery is rice, bread, oil and all the other things you said you wanted to buy.” Amma without looking at me, “yes beta, just looking at special offers, maybe we can get you something cheap for your birthday?” So I walk along looking at things we would never buy helping her decide which one we would have bought IF we were buying something.

About an hour and a half later, I’ve lost my shit and I tell mom to just leave. That’s when my mom gave it away. She walks away from me and makes a secret call and I realize there is a master plan surprise that my little family is trying to execute. So I start playing along. I give my mom time and space to make her secret calls and go sit in the car. When everything is set and we are ready to go, mom makes one last call to the team at home saying the goods have been dispatched (wow mom you could have been a spy).

When we reached home, I walked into a pitch black room. And the moment I absorbed my surroundings, more than 6 six people screamed at me (well a mixture of “surprise,” “happy birthday” and “aaaahh”). And I saw 3 of my closest friends looking back at me. At this point, my head has gone blank and I’m trying to think, say and do a lot of things but my brain and mouth and limbs lost their coordination. I still managed to say thanks and smile awkwardly and hug my friends. The next ten minutes are a little blurry but I remember my brother dragging me to look at my cake, my sister showing me the big 25 she’s made out of my photos and my dad showing me all the decorations they did as part of the theme. It was the most well thought of birthday surprise ever!

Below are the 10 little things (maybe not so little) that my family considered while planning that turned a simple living room decoration into the most memorable birthday ever!

A Theme

My family chose “Yellow” as the theme because it’s my favorite color. They used yellow balloons, yellow confetti, yellow cake, yellow ribbons and my sister was even wearing yellow! All of these little things brought such a ME feeling to the birthday. As if it couldn’t have been for anyone else because it’s all yellow!

The Cake

Get a customized cake! Mine was a chocolate cake with yellow icing and 4 little icon things that scream Siham – a DSLR, an iPhone, shopping bags and a boarding pass. Whether people eat that much cake or not (because everybody I know doesn’t), having a cake especially made for the birthday girl is what completes a birthday. My cake was so beautiful I admired it for a long time before cutting it.

customized birthday cake

The games

I know I know, society would like you to believe that 25-year-olds should not be playing Pin The Tail, Guess the Song, Pass the Parcel and Pinatas but my sister had organized those for me anyway. Not only were these games crazy fun, but it gave the whole birthday “party” a purpose. The first game was Guess the Song in which my sister played 4 seconds of a song I like and my friends had to guess what it was. The next game was the pinata. One of the 6 balloons had a special chocolate and whoever burst that, won!

The next one was Pin the Tail – but not really. More like pin-the-sunglasses-to-my-portrait while the song kaala chashma plays in the background. Rjaa won that even though her sunglasses landed on my nose rather than my eyes. I just gave her the prize for making me look cool. 

The last game was pass the parcel and the loser was supposed to sing a song and dance. As easy as it sounds, wait till you’re put on the spot and everyone is sober. The games were probably the reason why I didn’t feel like it was my 25th birthday. Felt as young as ever!

A Photographer

I have been to enough birthdays to understand the struggle birthday girls go through when it comes to enjoying their special day and capturing moments of that special day. My sister not only organized my special day but also took away that big responsibility of capturing moments for me. She became my photographer and managed to get a photo of all the little events of the birthday. I cannot explain in words how much of a difference that made to my ability to enjoy without worrying about photos for Instagram.

The Food

This is something I had already hinted at a long time ago – that I would rather we order in pizza on my birthday than spend on something fancy and difficult to eat. And they did it. It’s actually less about the convenience of dinner and more about how they managed to remember what I had said days before my birthday. Plus, who ever minds pizza?

The Thank You Gifts

When was the last time you went to a birthday party and came back with gifts for yourself? Well my friends did. My sister had painted little canvases with inspirational quotes for the winners of each of the games. All my friends went back with one of those. Apart from that, she also made cute little gift boxes with a bracelet and some chocolates along with a thank you card for my friends. So. Adorable.

birthday thank you gift

The Dancing

Well what’s a party without dancing? My sister managed to squeeze in an hour or so of dancing where my friends and I had nothing in the world to worry about. We danced like there was no tomorrow (or at least I did because I have no clue what everyone else was doing). It was the music I liked with people I liked in the comforts of my living room and all the craziness coming from within. Beat that alcohol-heavy adult house parties.

The Birthday Outfit

While I was splitting myself into pieces to take in all the awesomeness going on around me (FOR me), my sister asked me to go to my room and change into something decent. And even there she managed to surprise me. There lay a birthday special outfit for me. A poofy skirt, a white top and a chunky necklace. So beautiful I could cry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of what lay there, but I have some wonderful photos of myself heh.

The 25 gifts

Possibly the one thing that will stand out in my memory for ever! My family tried to get me 25 gifts for my 25th birthday! But due to time limitations, they stopped at 20. Although I’ve been promised I will get the rest in the next few days. After my friends had left, we played a family-only “Says Who” game. I had to guess 25 things my family members say and with each right guess I got a gift! These are all the gifts I got

  • The birthday top
  • The chunky necklace
  • A watch
  • A scented candle for my room
  • A new dress for Eid
  • A pair of Ray Ban sunglasses
  • A box (I love boxes)
  • A ring holder
  • Gym gloves
  • A box of chocolates
  • A Pandora bracelet
  • 2 Pandora charms
  • A scrapbook for my Polaroid photos
  • A new phone! Because I had broken mine just a week ago.
  • A phone holder
  • A big grand Ferrero Rocher
  • A chunky bracelet
  • A Mug
The Confidentiality of It All

Lastly, what made the whole thing such a big success was how secretly they carried it out. This birthday was a result of a week’s planning and preparation and it all happened in that one week I took off from work to stay at home and chill. The biggest shoutout to my family (especially my sister) for planning this whole thing while I was around without giving me the slightest hint that something is up. If you ever plan a birthday for someone living with you, the best way to keep it a secret is to do everything when they are asleep. All the other times, you WILL get caught.

If you need any help planning a loved one’s birthday, do get in touch and we can help with ideas and some how-tos that are simple to execute and make your surprise a lot more fun.

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I’m Siham - a 25-year-old Pakistani, born and raised in the UAE. Currently doing a boring desk job in Dubai - but my passion lies in reading, writing and motivating people.

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