We do birthdays a little different than most families. We don't throw a large birthday party every year for our children. They get a "big one" with their friends at age 7,10, 13,16. But we do celebrate their special day and they do get presents! We usually throw a surprise party - but the surprise is on the guest! We have a nice dinner party with one or two families (some times more!) Usually one family has a child that is a good friend of the birthday child, then the other guests are friends we want to have over for dinner or some one we would like to get to know better.
At the end of dinner we give the surprise - birthday cake and presents. We started this tradition when William was a baby. Before we even had children we were invited to a child's one-year birthday party for a child that we weren't very close to. We left we the feeling that the parents just wanted toys for their child instead of spending time with us as friends. We have since also, been to parties where there were so many children and presents that the birthday child was very overwhelmed.
So between all of that and the fact that we wanted to celebrate our child instead of how many toys we can accumulate, we decided to do things a little different.
Another tradition for us for birthdays is to eat food that represents the place the child was born. For William we either cook Japanese or eat at Japanese restaurant. For Melissa we cook food from California such as artichoke and Santa Maria BBQ. Since Ben's birthday is just month after Melissa's instead of serving artichokes again, we serve Italian food to remember our favorite restaurant in California, Saletti's (which has since been bought out and now not very good sad to say).
For Ben's day this year, we invited three families over, but one only was able to attend - thankfully, it was the family of his good friend, Jared. Ben was thrilled to get dart-board, a movie, Pokemon cards and a Pokemon kite. And he had a blast playing with Jared for a few hours. I'm not sure why both boys decided to open their mouths so wide - other than the fact they are eight-year old boys!