What Happened to Simple Birthday Parties?

What Happened to Simple Birthday Parties?

“The kids were dropped at the door, because it was a child’s party,
not an expectation for the parents to stay, lurking and scowling in the corner,
whilst inwardly seething about their weekend being lost on another kids party”.


When I was a kid I have fond memories of my 5th birthday.
I remember the anticipation of waiting for my pals to ring the door bell. I also recall using my new cardigan as a skipping rope (as you do when you are a fresh and cool 5 year old).
The inevitable happened and I tripped, my face landing heavily onto the corner of our wooden kitchen stools, delivering an impressive gash right across my eyebrow, with copious amounts of blood.
I also recall quite vividly, screaming at the top of my lungs at the sight of the gushing scarlet blood.  A quick trip to our local country hospital and 8 stitches later, I was slightly more subdued but still in fine spirits and ready for the partying to begin.

Said party was in fact a simple affair, consisting of the time-honoured, pass the parcel, a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, musical chairs and lots of running around the garden playing tag.

Party food was always fairy bread (an Aussie favourite, of soft white bread, spread with butter and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, crusts off and cut into little triangles). If you haven’t tasted fairy bread, I’m calling it, you haven’t lived.
Every Aussie parent appreciates the child-like joy of sneaking a few fairy bread pieces when nobody is looking, savouring the crunchy sweetness of the sprinkles amongst the soft carbs of the bread.
Its not just for the adults I can tell you.

There was also always home-made sausage rolls with good old tomato sauce as a side, a bowl or two of Cheezels or Twisties (another Aussie favourite – basically crunchy cheesy moorish bites of loveliness), a plate of ham sandwiches and a platter of cupcakes, decorated with a messy swirl of buttercream icing and a glace’ cherry on the top (you know to be fancy…)
Oh, and my mum always had a small bowl of Smarties on the table, just to make sure there was a high enough percentage of sugar running through our veins.
Everything was served on cheap, bendy paper plates and the only other decoration that could be seen, was a few token balloons floating under the kitchen table.

The ultimate finale of the day was the retro Aussie ice-cream cake 
(only retro now – not in my day!)
As my birthday is the end of December and one of the hottest months of the Australian year, the cake was always saved until the end and whipped out for a quick happy birthday chorus and blow of the candles.  I still have fond memories of my birthday ice-cream cake.
Neapolitan flavour with lots of lovely, swirly, pastel pinks and chocolate browns amongst the obligatory vanilla.  With little piped violet-coloured flowers all around the edge, made out of cream and you guessed it, sprinkles in the middle.
It was simply heaven to a 5 year old.

Birthday parties nowadays look somewhat different.
And even though I have to smile when I read about the ‘vintage games’ being played, I can’t help but feel the heart of a child’s party has been lost somewhat.
When I was little, the kids were dropped at the door, because it was a child’s party, not an expectation for the parents to stay, lurking and scowling in the corner, whilst inwardly seething about their weekend being lost on another kids party.
Those parents couldn’t leg it fast enough. A kid’s party meant freedom for a few hours for parents. It was a win-win situation.
Everybody knew where they stood. I drop my kid off at yours and you do the same to me! Cheers and see-ya later.

Now entire hall’s are rented out for parties. Not to mention the entertainment, with the likes of a DJ, or placed in the hands of a slick party planner.
Professionally organised parties have become quite the niche for clever entrepreneurs, willing to lighten busy and overwhelmed parent’s wallets, in the name of a stress-free party.
If you have multiple kids, it’s music to their ears. If you do it for one, you need to follow the same course for the rest of your little loves.

We have been to many of these over the years and it makes me a little sad that the innocence of a child’s birthday, seems to be lost amongst the grand affair that often parents feel pressured to be a part of.
I cannot tell you how many times I have walked into another weekend party and found the poor mother looking exhausted and anxious, despite the professional’s running the show. Maybe it’s the fact that she is ultimately responsible and at the beck-and-call of 30 plus children, their offsprings and parents.

On a day that is so sacred and precious.

“This day, this birth day of your child, is the most precious date of the year.
Because it is the day that you met your baby.
It is the day that you laboured and held your forever love for the first time.
And whilst it is a celebration, it doesn’t have to be the grand affair that society seems to dictate we follow today”.

Our fourth child, Milly, recently turned 12.
Her request was for me to bake her chocolate chip muffins for breakfast and have a wander through Norwich in the sunshine and stop for an ice-cream gelato.
In our effort to live a slow and more simple and happy life, I couldn’t be more delighted at Milly’s request.
We have the privilege of celebrating her day together as a family without the pressure of time and commitment to other people.

I didn’t have to rent a village hall or take all day to set-up a venue outside the home. I didn’t have to worry about the cost of feeding lots of children and their parents. I was able to be with the child that made me a mummy for the fourth time.

Don’t misunderstand my heart though, I am not against parties! I just wish that these parties could be a simple affair, a gathering of precious and important people, rather than the huge event that I see time and time again.

We will, however, always and in large amounts, bring out the fairy bread because no birthday can be without it.
Australian or not, once you try it – you will be smitten for life.

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  1. We have the simplest of parties here. And we love them. I worked on saying goodbye to all of that birthday stress. Though children’s birthdays can have a tendency to tempt me back to the pursuit of things we’ve walked away from (comparison, competition, greed and fear of ‘not giving our children enough) it doesn’t take much for me to remember what we’re living for now including our enjoyment of the simple things, slowing the pace so that we can experience the days with our littles and letting them have more choice. Our most recent party consisted of close family and friends, musical bumps, pass the parcel, that simple party food (and none of it handmade!!!) and children running wild in the garden with balloons and bubbles. And with me the sole adult in the place there was, thankfully, no chance for comparison or pride, just a whole lot of laughter and the perfect amount of that great end-of-the-day, slump-in-the-armchair-amid-paper-plates-and-balloons tiredness.

    1. Hi Amy!
      What a lovely party you describe! Musical bumps are my favourite (even as an adult) and simple is so enjoyable. I have realised over the 20 odd years of being a parent that it tends to be me that puts pressure on myself to make the parties fancy. My children, however, love simple every single time, so I have learnt my lesson over time. x

  2. Huh, can’t be just me that doesn’t mind spending time with my kid at a birthday party. We always have simple ones, but that’s usually because I don’t see the point of shelling out hundred of dollars on any given party. But I certainly don’t mind going to a fancy one. To each their own.

  3. My son turns 1 at the first of the fall. All my American friends have been asking me about a grand party. My international friends didnt even have a party for their 1 year olds. Totally different. We are going with finger foods, smash cake, 2 friends for baby and grandparents. Simple is best.