“You Say It’s Your Birthday”

1948-50s 192

I have been reflecting on the differences between birthday celebrations when I was a kid in the 1950’s and today. This was sparked by seeing a brochure at the grocery store full of “party planners” and “party events.” Apparently you can now hire someone to plan and run your child’s party. You can also hire a bounce house, a magician, a makeup artist, a clown and who knows who else.

Our birthday parties were all the same. Hand made invitations were given to the same number of friends as your age. 8 years old, 8 guests and so forth. The meal was always the same: cake, ice cream and Kool-Aid. The games were always the same or variations of the same. There was pin the tale on the donkey, bean bag toss, remember the items on a tray before it is covered up, and various simple word games. Prizes were awarded for the first place winner in each game. Then the birthday child opened all the presents in front of the other guests, practicing her best good manners of being appreciative no matter what. After about 90 minutes, mothers picked up the guests.

Now parties give each child a goodie bag to take home so that no one feels left out. Similarly gifts are opened in private to avoid comparing presents so that no one gets their feelings hurt. Many parties are given at places especially designed to hold them. Our craft store hosts parties. The trampoline park holds parties. The movie theater holds parties.

All I can say is that parties were a lot less expensive when I was a kid. No planner was needed since the parties were identical. And no one appears to have worried about the feelings of the guest. After all, it wasn’t their birthday!

20 thoughts on ““You Say It’s Your Birthday”

  1. I only remember one birthday party as a child and it was just as you described. I was in the 4th grade and had friends from school, the opening of presents, a game or two, and cake and ice cream. I was happy. Simpler times.

    1. Part of the reason I am writing all of these posts is to at least let younger readers know that there are alternatives to a purely materialistic way of life.

  2. When I was a girl, Elizabeth, my parents couldn’t afford birthday parties. My mom made us a cake to take to school and that was it. I had my first part, jointly with a friend, when I turned 16. It was so memorable.

  3. How times have changed. We use to ride our bikes without helmets, down steep hills, arms flung in the air. Drink water out of the garden hose pipe, and never contracted bubonic plague. We did a lot of things in the 50s people turn green over these days!

  4. We had small parties a little like that–cake, ice cream, maybe soda (although we rarely had soda and I have been always grateful not to have gotten that habit!), although honestly there were years when we only had a family dinner party with parents and grandmother who lived next door, which equalled cake and ice cream after dinner. There was a period when my mother was a waitress at a pizza place and we had parties there in afternoons after school, which seemed very big-league at the time since we were poor. We did open cards and prsents in front of everyone and of course were courteous about it, whatever our personal feelings might have been about the loot.

    I found the old pin the tail on the donkey set in our old house and I love it. Cute cute photo, by the way–

    1. That little umbrella was a birthday gift from the neighborhood kids. I don’t remember anybody drinking soda in those days. It was water or Kool-Aid or lemonade. I think a lot of my readers were or are poor. Interesting who we connect with on line!

      1. I think that in real life, any people were or are poor. There was a family near us that won a million dollars in the lottery in the 1970s, back when a million dollars was “HOLYMOLEY, A MILLION DOLLARS!”, and within a couple of years they had thrown it all away. There is a lot written about how many who grew up poor simply don’t know how to be other-than-poor, even when they make a lot. We had a kind of lemonade drink powder, maybe called something like Olde Time, but that may have been more 1970s than earlier. We had iced tea powder too, and Kool-Aid itself was simply too expensive. Do you recall a kind of fizzy caps that one dissolved like Alka-Seltzer, only it made a sweet drink similar to Kool-Aid…?

        1. I certainly remember those Fizzies. For some reason my mom found those an extravagance and not Kool-Aid. Raised in the 30’s and largely self-supporting from 11 on, my dad never could spend money and always felt poor though he became very prosperous.

        2. My mother and my husband’s mother also were raised in the 30s and still believe they are poor, although one at least si doing quite well and neither is lacking enough for their retirement years. I loved those Fizzies–maybe rootbeer springs to mind, but then again I may be conflating them with the candies that were in the shape of bottlecaps and quite hard…

  5. I didn’t have a birthday party growing up but did have a birthday cake, special meal & gift πŸ˜€
    I gave all my daughters simple birthday parties (as you described) every second year, the alternate year was a cake & favorite meal they got to choose with a gift too. πŸ˜€
    My grandchildren have had some very different birthday parties! Some huge productions lol! πŸ˜‰
    Jennifer

    1. We got to choose the flavor and frosting of our cake. I always wanted yellow cake, but requested that my mom use food coloring for some wild different butter cream frosting. She protested the orange, but did it anyway.

  6. It is clear that all this increased consumption is not accompanied by an equivalent increase in pleasure or happiness. Indeed with the increased rates of depression reported by people it is reasonable to think that this increased materialism has made us less happy overall.

    1. I am certain that it has increased depression. I think that materialism always promises something it is incapable of delivering, leaving people disappointed.

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