It’s a shame, but it seems to be the case that the traditional childrens birthday party is slowly being replaced by other ways of celebrating the passing of another year of a child’s life. These days there is a growing trend to have parties hosted at fast food restaurants, the bowling alley or the leisure centre, so let’s take a moment to think about the birthday parties we all enjoyed as kids.
The standard template for a birthday party in the 1980’s, as it was for many years previously, was to invite a number of school friends to your house after school on the day of your birthday, or on a weekend day preceding or following your birthday. Everyone would come to your house with a little present for you, which should be opened when received. I never understood parents of kids who held the party before their offsprings actual birthday, and then told them they had to wait until their birthday before they could open the presents from their friends. Half the fun of the present giving was that everybody could see what you got and go “Cor! Wish I’d got that!”
Once all the presents had been ripped open and all the bits of wrapping paper had been tidied away, it was time to play a few party games. There were several different sorts of games that could be played, depending on the age and number of guests at the party, of which I intend to go into more detail tomorrow, but for now let me just say that no kids party would be complete without a game of Pass the Parcel – preferably with forfeits that had to be carried out whenever a layer of paper was removed.
Eventually it would be time for the birthday tea, the best of which consisted of a first course of buffet finger food such as little sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, cheesey footballs and the like, all washed down with a gallon or two of fizzy pop. Woe betide the Mother who served vol au vents though – she’d be picking them out of the carpet for weeks afterwards.
Of course, you can’t have a birthday party without a birthday cake, and after all the guest had eaten their fill of savoury goodies it would be brought out for all to look at in wonder. Today most Mothers will just buy a cake from Tesco, but when I was a kid I was lucky enough to have a Mum who would excel herself each year by making a birthday cake in the shape of something. One year I got a brilliant train shaped cake made from a homemade swiss roll and some mini rolls for wheels, and another year I had a computer shaped cake! At this point I must say “Well done Mum, and Thanks a lot!” because as a kid I had no idea what effort she must have gone to in making these works of art.
Once candles had been added to the cake and Happy Birthday sung the birthday boy or girl would blow out the candles and make a wish. If the birthday child had a little brother or sister then the candles were quite often relit so they could blow them out too and didn’t feel left out. Only problem with this was that it was always very embarassing if your younger sibling did a better job of extinguishing the candles than you did!
Strangely, the birthday cake often didn’t get eaten at this point. Instead out came a variety of chocolate biscuits and fairy cakes, and lashings of jelly, ice cream and trifle, leaving the cake to be cut into pieces, wrapped in a napkin and added to the end of party goodie bags. Again these probably deserve a post in their own right, so I’ll post about these separately later this week.
After dinner a few more games might be played, or perhaps if there was time you’d all sit down and watch a suitable kids film. Eventually the dredded end of the party would arrive, and one by one the guests parents would call to pick up their offspring. Nobody ever wanted to be the first to leave, and you were sorely disappointed if you were a guest and your parent turned up first. The pain was eased somewhat though by the awarding of the aforementioned goodie bag containing a slice of birthday cake and a selection of party favours, which was accepted with a heartfelt “Thank you for having me”.
I guess this does all sound like a lot of hard work for the poor parents, but one way to make things a little easier is to check out PartyStuffOnline.co.uk who have a wide selection of different themed party favours, plates, cups, tablecloths and the like. They also have a good range of personalised products to choose from.