Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Social Minefield that is Birthday Parties.

Who'd have thought that the humble Birthday Party could be fraught with so many social pitfalls. If you thought it was turn up with a present, eat some cake, go home then you too may fall into some of the traps.   I seem to fallen into most of them over the four years or so of holding them for the Children here. So far I seem to have got the following 'wrong'....

* Date of party - well blow me if you can't hold it before the actual birthday as it is the worst bad luck in the world apparently. 

* Cake - so I've had all manner of trouble finding appropriate baking material here in Germany - from no self raising flour or fondant icing to type of cake and when it's offered.  So my lovely buttercream creations have not gone down well with the German children who've come to celebrate - and I think you're meant to start the party with the cake rather than have it as the finale to a birthday tea.  I've resorted to making my own marshmallow fondant to cover cakes - and actually this worked out well....but you have to get the marshmallows in the first place.......

Homemade Marshmallow Fondant Icing on a Little Einsteins Cake.

* Games - I'm not sure what constitutes a party game in Germany - I've not been witness to any at a children's party.  I was however a bit baffled to find I had to explain pass the parcel to a group of 4 and 5 year olds as they'd never seen it before.  Ditto musical statues.  Ditto dead lions..... I think perhaps a 'traditional birthday party' in the Anglo Saxon way I understand it is very definitely not the norm here and that a less structured (is this possible for the Germans?) playdate approach - or a themed party out somewhere seems more ordinary.

* Food - so sandwiches, cheese and pineapple sticks, crisps, jelly and ice cream - all harking back to my idyllic childhood parties of course again seems to be the wrong thing to provide here - not of course that the children complain about the vast amounts of sugar and junk offered - hey it is a party after all!  But when I question my boys as to what they get given at other parties - it's much more a proper cooked meal rather than a 'birthday tea'.  Last year I did admit defeat on this one and ordered in pizza which went down a treat.  This year however, due to timely supplies arriving from the Motherland - we will be going "English" again!

* Presents - I have to admit that here I think the German approach I've come across here to actually be better than the 'turn up with a piece of tat' approach that seems prevalent in the UK.  Instead of individual gifts the guests contribute a small amount - 5 Euros or so - so that the birthday child can get a larger present.  This is so much better in my view and it's the one custom I've wholeheartedly adopted!

Anyway I think that pretty much sums up the Birthday Party faux pas I've made - but you know what I don't actually care that "I'm doing it wrong".  I'll stick to what I know and do birthday parties the way I'm used to and introduce a bit of individuality to them here!


  1. I had one party where two of us explained the "rules" for pass the parcel and then there were two (English) children who actually understood the rules sitting in the circle and still it didn't work. Jas reports some saucepan banging game from German parties...the mind boggles.

  2. My sister is an expat in Norway and tried to recreate buns on a string and apple bobbing at a hallowe'en party, but in her expat-fuzzled brain, got the two a bit confused and had a line of 8 year olds, with their hands behind their backs, desperately trying to bite into hard apples hanging from strings. Cue many very frustrated children chasing the apples round and round and round. Still makes me laugh thinking about it now :D