On the first day back at school my three got several invites between them. I don't remember going to so many parties when I was five. Maybe they weren't as memorable back when bell bottoms were all the rage. They were always at home (occasionally we went to see a movie). I remember having a few friends over, we played games like pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs and opened presents. The highlight was eating birthday cake and ice cream.
These days my girls talk about their party months before it happens. We usually end up inviting the whole class and a few extras, especially when they were younger. They eat lots of sweets, get an obscene amount of presents and then have a break down the size of Mt. Everest.
Even though I have lived here for ages, the one English birthday tradition I can't get used to is sending the birthday cake home. I say English because my husband does not remember this being the case in Scotland when he was growing up.
Please can someone explain why you would send freshly cut cake home with children wrapped only in a paper napkin, crumbs and all. Why not just eat it there? I asked several mums and they did't have an answer, just "it's traditional".
If you haven't been to a child's birthday party here yet, it goes like this. After the party activities (most likely a clown or gym), there is a birthday "tea" no matter what time if day it is. This consists of cold sausages, ham and/or jam sandwiches, Hula Hoops, and some attempt at fruit and veg, like cucumber slices and carrot sticks.
Then a beautiful birthday cakes comes and everyone sings "Happy Birthday to You" with a "Hip Hip Hooray" thrown in for each year of age. Then the cakes gets whisked away, to be cut into slices and wrapped in party napkins and given to each guest to take home. I'm not sure why there isn't more rebellion on the child side at not getting to eat the cake, but perhaps they are used to it and just expect it.
My kids either shovel the cake in their mouths on the way home and get crumbs all over the car or in the case of my eldest, who hates jam in cakes, it ends up forgotten on the front seat waiting to be sat on.
It's just one of those things to get used to as an expat, like racing to the grocery store before 4 pm on a Sunday to get milk...
This post was written by Susanna, an Expat Mums Blog founding contributor. You can read more at her blog, A Modern Mother.
Photo credit: Lee Turner