Birthday Extravaganza

Growing up, I was an extremely privileged little girl who had a birthday party almost every year. I was the last child and was therefore labelled as the spoilt brat, which I wasn’t….of course!

My parties were an absolute highlight in my life, which I remember vividly. This is what a typical birthday party looked like in my life:

  • The venue: my parents’ garage.
  • Theme: No theme…
  • Dress up: Come in your play clothes.
  • Décor: Table was an old door on trestles with a white table cloth on. Balloons were added with sticky tape on the walls.
  • Photos: Kodak film camera taken by mom or family member. My lucky friends had instant Polaroid cameras, of which the photos had to be waved in the air to dry so it wouldn’t smudge. Photos were placed in an album afterwards.
  • Food: Copious amounts of sweets, including Fizzers, Cheese Curls, Smarties and gummy sweets in big bowls or just spread on the table in a wave-like pattern.
  • Drink: Red and green Lecol coldrink in jugs on the table drunk from paper cups.
  • Cake: Friend or family member baked a vanilla cake in the shape of a butterfly, humpty dumpty and my best was a Cindy (we didn’t have Barbies until later) doll with a cake dress.
  • Entertainment: Pool, pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey, ring-a-rosie and general running and shouting. One year, when I was older, I was even allowed to rent two VHS videos.
  • Presents: Fun, dare I say, cheap presents that I only opened after everyone left.
  • Parents: Dropped off their kids and only my mom’s friends or adult family members stayed.
  • Result of the day: Fun, Excitement, Sugar-rush, absolute exhaustion for parents and kids!

What does the typical birthday party look like nowadays?:

  • The venue: Often not at someone’s home. Generally a farmyard, a spa (if it’s a girl), go carting, country club or similar.
  • Theme: Pirate, Cars, Smurfs, Tinkerbelle, Frozen, How to train your dragon, you name it!
  • Dress: Dress per the theme! This equates to spending money to rent a costume or make one.
  • Décor: Events planner prepares formal invites, goody bags, centre pieces, bunting flags, piñatas, photo booths etc. Less extreme parents do it themselves!
  • Photos: Taken by a professional photographer and e-mailed to the parents afterwards to share on Facebook.
  • Food: Well planned, theme related healthy meals, with goody bags to take home, filled with an array of sweets and cold drinks and don’t forget the present! Food is plated on tiered stands and is prepared by a caterer.
  • Drinks: Non-alcoholic champagne or little bottles with striped straws arranged creatively to make great photos.
  • Cake: A fondant tiered cake, obviously in the theme which costs the parents approximately R1,000. The cake is often red velvet, carrot or a mixed rainbow cake.
  • Entertainment: Ponies, farm animals, balloon sculptors, magicians, puppet shows, stilt walkers, clowns: Nothing is too much for your little angel! Jumping castles, pools with giant balls to run in, rocket inflatables, art classes. You name it, it’s been done!
  • Presents: The right thing to do lately is to ask what you can get the birthday boy or girl and parents are not ashamed to ask for expensive presents. The presents are opened in front of the guests, which could sometimes cause some embarrassment.
  • Parents: They are generally invited and catered for in full, with alcoholic beverages included.
  • Result of the day: Fun, Excitement, Sugar-rush, absolute exhaustion for parents and kids! Plus the added expectation to top the party just attended!


Do I condemn the above? Not at all. I’ve done most of it myself. We’ve had Fun in the Sun, the Princess and the Frog, Survivor and there are many more to come.

What I did realise though is that we spent less time and effort previously and the birthday girl or boy had exactly the same excitement and sense of feeling special. Maybe we should start going back to basics. You first!!!


Sometimes less is more……





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