We had birthday parties scheduled for every single weekend in March (including a double header one weekend), so I am declaring that birthday season is a Thing. (And please keep in mind that while you read, you should also be hearing Black Keys' "Hell of A Season," like I do when I think about this. Be more like me.) I mean, what was happening 9 months ago that so many kids have March birthdays? Somebody look into that.
So anyway, birthday parties. English children do get older and they do celebrate this aging process. Brits, they're just like us! Except for a few things that are not. Here's the deal on parties that I've noticed so far. And this could purely be a result of the area we live in, I'm fully aware of that, but it never stops me from making sweeping generalizations with the intent to amuse.
First things first, you have to give at least a one month notice before the party. Whether by group email or on the school grounds, or a proper invitation, whatever the method, you need to save that freaking date. Because Brits are very serious about booking in advance, this holds true for so much more than parties, but I'll cover that another time. Also, it's okay to invite whomever you want, you don't have to invite the whole class! Just send little Lottie into school with her invites and let her distribute them at will. The school, the teachers, the parents, nobody cares if you're not inviting everyone. I find this kind of refreshing, mostly because it doesn't seem that certain kids always get left out, more that there's a bit less hand wringing about including every single person. Invitations need to be formal and you also need to make sure that your child writes a polite thank you note for every child that attends the party, and it should be delivered within 2 weeks of the party's completion. (It's been almost a month, and Holland has only written 2. We're lazy Americans.)
Now to the actual party dynamics and procedures: Co-ed parties are the norm. All through primary school the boys and the girls are included in the celebrations. This weirded Finley out, she prefers total sex segregation in all social situations. The presence of the male child actually offends her. But she's been able to suffer through it, because along with the mixed company, there's also usually a disco. (They call any organized dancing a disco.) Finley, like her mom before her, loves to bust a move. Which leads me to another observation, party goers get dressed for the occasion. The kids will show up in their nicest dress, no matter the planned activity. Even for Holland's very crafty party (more below) many of the girls showed up in their fanciest frocks.
The parties can be quite elaborate - they almost always involve an entertainer. The girls have gone to parties with a magician, an Elsa impersonator, a milk shake chef (yeah whatever that is), a dance choreographer, and Bear Maker (think build a bear in your house). It can honestly be too much of a production, but the older kids seem to mellow out a bit and do small sleepovers. (Although Eli did go to a party where they rented a gaming truck that parked in front of their house and hosted 10 teenage boys. But I consider that #notmyproblem)
For Holland's party, I found a little crafting shop that hosts parties. The girls (she is also quite sexist) made papier-mâché owls and then decoupaged the crap out of them. I was happy to turn this project over to anyone other than myself, at a place anywhere other than my own home. Win win.
Now come the two points that are always the same. ALWAYS. The birthday child never opens their gifts at the party. NEVER. And the kids that attend always get a party bag, which is what we would call party favors. In fact, when they sense the end of the party is near, there's usually a shark-like frenzy energy and they will start asking directly for their party bag. Every time. You better have that party bag, or you are persona non grata. I thought I could get away with the kids taking home their owls as the party bag, but then I chickened out and got a bunch of those giant bubble wands. Lo and behold, with their little owl creations in hand, five minutes before the party ended, two girls asked for their party bags. With great relief (and alacrity) I retrieved the sack of wands and began dispersing as instructed. It was a close call. But I did stand firm on my 'no sweets' policy. Yes, me, discouraging sugar consumption. I had to take some sort of stand against all those 5 year old monkeys.