Sometimes it just takes an afternoon with some kids to bring you back to what really matters.
I watched my friend's children today, two girls -5 and 3 and a boy - 6 mos. The main activity the two older kids wanted to do was make a cake (this is actually almost always what the older girl wants to do - that and put on make up.)
We made the cake, the girls helping my brother, and at several points the older girl made sure that we all knew this cake was for her mother - her mother's birthday in fact.
Now, her mom celebrated her birthday 7 months ago, but this doting daughter looked at me a bit like, "Why are you telling me this information?" when I pointed out we might be a bit off on the timing.
As the cake baked, the girls wrapped presents. And by presents I mean they wrapped wrapping paper inside wrapping paper. It is apparently the unwrapping that makes it special - no need for presents. The older girl has actually done this before, wrapped paper in paper and given it as gifts. We thought she might be pretending the paper was something else. I really felt like an idiot when I asked her what it was.
When their parents came back, we frosted the cake (the two colors they chose to make were pink and pink) and they timed things how I think they should be done now - they served the cake and THEN we sang happy birthday to their mother. Note the half-served cake above. Their mom was endlessly pleased (note sarcasm) with half a dozen people making her blow out the candles as we sang to her not even remotely on-key.
It didn't matter how many times we talked about the fact that it wasn't her birthday, it did not dissuade these two. Without gobs of presents, without balloons, without a bunch of other kids, without... well, an actual birthday, this did not stop the excitement of celebrating their mom.
As they were leaving the three-year-old girl stopped at the door to cry, "That was the best birthday party EVER!"