This has been a month of kids’ birthday parties for us, on the organizational side and on the invitational side. My third child turns seven on Friday and her younger brother attended a birthday party for a friend of ours’ son the week before. Olivia attended a ninth birthday party for a boy in her class on Saturday. (Oh, how the school system can create age disparity within a class at school – but that is a post for another day).
Last year we were spared the pain of trying to plan a Kindergeburtstag at all because we had just moved back to Germany when the time came for Olivia. We decided we didn’t know enough of her classmates to have a party so we just celebrated with the family. There seem to be two kinds of birthday parties around here. There are the ones where the parents come up with some elaborate, very time-intensive (for the planners) theme and put tons of effort into it. And then there are the ones where they choose a venue (like the local indoor playground) and let the venue take care of it. We fall into the latter category, but to be honest, I don’t think the kids care that much. Olivia enjoyed both types equally. We are having Olivia’s party at the local Technomuseum. I think they are making paper with the kids. We will bring the food and drink and will bake the cake, and they will be in charge of entertaining the kids. That works for us. We both work full time and have four kids of our own. We aren’t keen on having a bunch more running through our house and adding to the chaos. Our garden is pretty small and our neighbors are pretty grumpy.
Most of the parties the kids have gone to this year are single gender parties. However, Olivia was one of two or three girls that were invited to a boy’s party this past weekend.
Here are a few of the birthdays we’ve experienced since we got here:
- Arbeiterwohlfahrt (Workers’ Welfare Association): The organization is “a service organization dedicated to promoting worker welfare. This is accomplished by pursuing projects in a number of areas, including elderly care, youth services, migration counseling, as well as community development.” (Source: http://www.globalhand.org/en/browse/regions/Europe/all/organisation/24813). I had to look that one up. Either way, the kids went to a little clubhouse sort of thing in the next town and youth workers entertained them. They made balloon animals and did pottery.
- Indoorspielplatz: This seems to be the most popular option, both among the kindergarten set and the school kids. There is usually a table reserved for each party and the food is provided by the venue. It tends to be low-quality junk food, but that is what the kids like. (Olivia is not generally used to it, though. She complained about how bad the pizza was.) The kids run around madly for three hours, eat cake, and get picked up.
- Under the sea: This was one of those extravagant parent-organized party. To be fair, it was amazing. Each kid got either a mermaid tail or a shark costume and all of the games were organized around the theme. The cake was an amazing concotion that was covered in blue frosting and gummy fish. Noah loved this party.
- Nemo (similar to above): Again, this was a parent one. There was a very complicated scavenger hunt event with water and playgrounds and treasure. The kids each got Nemo T-shirts made by the grandma. The food was pretty much the usual German kid birthday fare, sausages and french fries. I didn’t see the cake, but the mom said to me after that the kids would probably have been just as happy to run around the playground.
A friend of mine also organized some sort of Star Wars themed party and she made her own Death Star pinata, which looked VERY impressive on Facebook! In general, kids’ birthday parties have a definite start and end time. Mostly the parents don’t stay with their kids, but this depends on age. Some of the events had a party for the adults afterward. We generally buy presents that cost between €10 and €15. Toys R Us gift cards seemed to be a popular present, and many kids ask for that directly. The kids open the presents right when they are handed over in most of the cases we have seen.
Either way, I guess the parties aren’t as extravagant as I have heard they can be in the US. I have never really lived in the States with kids of my own, so I don’t know. But as long as everyone has a good time, it’s good with me and mine!