Retro reflection: kids' birthday parties

Retro reflection: kids' birthday parties

Gone are the days when your child’s birthday party was just a celebration of surviving another year. Now, more so than ever, the success of your kid’s party is crucial to retaining your social standing and integrity. 

The parties

Forty years ago kids’ birthday parties were a much simpler affair. It was okay to just invite your offspring’s immediate friends, you know their real friends. This ensured a manageable sized gathering, complete with the doting grandparents. Well, they couldn’t possibly be excluded from their precious grandchild’s party – those angel-tinted glasses are invaluable. 

The venue

There really was no shame, unlike today, in holding your kid’s birthday party at home. Yes that’s right; it was perfectly acceptable to use your own cramped semi-detached as the venue. Despite everyone wearing highly fashionable flares and shirts with long, if not a little dangerous, pointed lapels, there was still plenty of room. Somehow everyone managed to negotiate each other, the furniture and the shag-pile carpet. In fact contrary to popular belief, people did not constantly go-over on their platforms or trip on surplus inches of nylon trouser. 

A word to the wise: if you want to avoid social suicide hold the party anywhere but your home. The venue needs to be bigger and better than the last kid’s party on the calendar. Ideally it should be themed, at a fabulous attraction and with an extortionate price tag. 

The birthday finery

Okay so back in the 1970s your kid’s party frock may have already made its party debut. Namely on their older sister or cousin a few years earlier, but it was still good to go. It really didn’t matter back then. 

Today if you want your child to avoid cyber bullying, hand-me-downs are a definite no-no. They are so last decade, darling. Dress them appropriately - try Lelli Kelly for fabulous children’s wear.

The cake

Mr Kipling was very busy in the 70s making exceedingly good cakes. If he was out of your price range, then Gran’s wonky and badly iced creation was the star of the show. It still got a few polite oohs and aaahs, or was that just the food colouring? 

Today you’d do well to employ the services of Heston Blumenthal and have him unveil a deconstructed Victoria Sponge Cake complete with nitrogen vapour.

The party games

Generally the budget didn’t run to huge inflatable castles in the back garden. Scary clowns, nauseating magicians and performing monkeys were also off limits. No, kids were content to play Pass the Parcel. It was a simple concept: sit in a circle - even next to a smelly boy – and pass the parcel nicely as the distorted music whirred on the tape recorder. However, the reality was nasty tactics including snatching, elbowing and the ultimate manipulation “It’s my birthday” to get the parcel’s main bounty. 

Today these games are merely child’s play. Sorry. Seriously, you need to up the ante here when it comes to the entertainment. For instance, booking One Direction for a private gig will make your child incredibly popular. 

The goody bags

They didn’t exist. Honestly. On leaving the party a squidgy piece of cake made with margarine (nice) would be pushed into guests’ hands. Obviously it was wrapped in a party serviette. Later they would attempt to carefully excavate it from its tissue shroud, with not much success. 

Nowadays goody bags are a must. Fill them with iPhone 5s, iPads and include a generous sprinkling of Swarovski crystals to keep your child on the birthday party circuit. 



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