When I was growing up, most birthday parties we had in our family were the "no gifts please" type of party. This seemed fairly uncommon at the time - I can't remember going to any parties for my friends where this was case.
Now, however, it seems to be gaining popularity. Ralphie's little girl had a birthday last week and it was a no gifts party. Emily Kate posted recently about her daughter's first birthday party, and I noticed that the invitations specified no gifts as well. Kayla, who is my guide in all things party throwing, has made the line ""your presence is the only gift we need!" standard on all invitations for birthdays.
I tend to be a little uncomfortable with gifts anyway, and I always worry people will think they were invited to something solely because I want them to show up with some excellent loot (hello, social anxieties). If I ever do throw myself a birthday party, you can bet the invitations will say, in large large letters, "No Gifts, Please!" (More likely, I'll steal Kayla's excellent line, but we'll skip over that for now).
I think kid birthday parties can become so expensive, especially when you have multiple children who are all being invited to a bunch of parties a year, and it is so difficult to pick out a gift for another child - what will they like, what do they already have? Will you give the loser gift that they cast aside the moment the wrapping paper is off? Will your gift be the one the child loves but the parent hates you for giving (did I mention that this kind of thing gives me intense anxiety?)? I want to spare other people the burden of this. Show up and let me feed your children prodigious amounts of sugar. No plastic toy from Wal-mart required.
Plus, I tend to be quite the minimalist, so the idea of my child getting a pile of random cheap gifts and then having to find a place for them does not thrill me in the least (not that I think YOU would give my child a random cheap gift - it's everyone else I worry about . . . ). And multiple children? Multiple piles of random stuff every single year? Not interested.
Perhaps I'm setting my children up for a lifetime of disappointing birthdays, but I really hope that they will see their birthday parties as a chance to have fun and spend time with friends and family, not a reason to open a huge mountain of gifts.
This makes it sound like I hate gifts. Of course I do not - I am only human. But I hate required gifts. I would never expect you to give me or my children a gift, for any occasion.