There are a surprising number of people who knock birthdays, often with excuses relating to getting older, or various other unfounded, neurotic ideas, but I think birthdays have a great potential to be very nice. Especially if spent with any number of people to whom you are close. See, the fundamental idea behind a birthday is: "This is the day that you were born, and we like you, so we're going to celebrate that." This is of course where birthdays also get their great potential to be horrible, say if it is forgotten or you don't have any one to spend it with and instead have to spend it cold and alone.
There are all sorts of ways to celebrate the day of someone's birth, by buying things for them, calling them on the telephone, taking them out to dinner, giving them sexual favors, buying irritating ads on blimps or in newspapers etc. My family has what I feel to be a very nice tradition in these regards, yes of course we get presents for each other, but we also have a birthday dinner.
The birthday dinner does not have to fall on the exact day of birth -- but I happen to think all holidays should be somewhat malleable for convenience's sake. How are you going to enjoy it if you have to scrunch it in between two meetings, or run off afterwards for whatever lame, probably work related and stressful excuse? First tell the person who you want to celebrate that you are going to make them a birthday dinner. Find out when would be most convenient for them, find out if there's anyone special that they want around, but most importantly find out what they want to eat. And don't forget to ask what kind of cake (or cake substitute) they want. Now it doesn't matter if they ask for Kraft dinner and brussel sprouts or liver and onions or pickled beets or anything else that you happen to be less than fond of. It's their birthday dinner after all. If they're vague or it's really that bad you can of course add courses for palatablility, but they should probably get all the things that they asked for.
Next, on the day designated for dinner start at least five hours before you intend to have dinner done, and you should probably start the cake on your own early in the day, or even the night before, because you can't stick the cake in the oven with the roast garlic even if they're supposed to have the same oven temperature. Get together everyone you can think of that will want to celebrate birthdays and eat good food. Get them all to give you $5, or whatever's necessary. Take a small delegation to the store and get all your ingredients, and pick up some nice wine or good beer or something to go with the meal, of course. And get yourself a bottle or two for the kitchen as well.
Start delegating things. Don't forget to delegate someone to clean up afterwards. And for godsake's make enough food for everyone! Try not to be too anal about where things are put away in your kitchen or what direction people stir their bread dough etc for right now. As soon as you start leaning over people's shoulders and telling them that they're using the wrong knife or that they should pour the oil with their other hand, it's time to open that bottle of wine you got for the kitchen. You'll need it, because invariably dinner will be at least an hour late and you'll be an absolute wreck without a little help from everyone's favorite helper in the kitchen.
Once dinner is done you all get to eat it and do that Thanksgiving Dinner sitting around the table and talking for two hours after everyone is finished sort of thing. And you have a large group of people who (hopefully) like each other and are well fed sitting around in your house. This should be a very pleasant way to spend a birthday.