“Party Hearty”


I went to many birthday parties when I was a child. They were all held in the birthday child’s home, and they all followed the same format. The party started out with games, followed by the birthday girl(I only went to girls’ parties) opening her presents, followed by ice cream and cake. The cake always had the number of candles to represent the birthday and was brought lit to the table for the girl to make a wish and blow out the candles. No one hired clowns or magicians. No one had her party at another location such as a pizza parlor(there weren’t any) or an arcade(there weren’t any). Parties were, therefore, pretty affordable and noncompetitive.

Every party had a variety of pin the tail on the donkey, sometimes nose on the clown, sometimes bow on the hair. Each child was blindfolded, turned around three times, handed a tail(or a nose or a bow) and directed to stick in on the donkey(or clown or hair.) The child who taped it closest to its appropriate place won a small prize. Much merriment surrounded the dizzy child failing to even attach the tail anywhere near the target. Usually there were two other games of the mother’s choosing. Each game had one prize, so three children left the party with a prize.

Contemporary children’s birthday parties are big business. Our local grocery store features a free booklet with party locations, party entertainment and party food. Each child is supposed to leave the party with a “goody bag,” ensuring, I guess, that no child feels slighted. On the other hand, no child gets to win one of three prizes, something I always tried to do.

Fortunately, my daughter has held old fashioned birthday parties in the back yard with games such as running around and blowing bubbles. At one birthday party ten various aged kids spent their time digging a giant hole and leaping over and into it. Once again, it proves that kids make their own entertainment when given the chance. They still devour cake and ice cream! Some things never change.

22 thoughts on ““Party Hearty”

  1. The parties I attended, and there weren’t very many, were as you have described, Elizabeth. Sometimes we had to dress up and our MOm’s would make us an outfit. I remember one where the theme was nursery school characters and I went as Mary, Mary quite contrary. Such fun!


  2. I cherish the simple memories of my children’s birthdays. Homemade cake, a handful of friends and a lot of laughter. Our 18 month old granddaughter’s circle ‘books’ dates and venues a year in advance. I hear my daughter say they are not going to do a big party this year. I hope they follow through.


  3. It was my eldest boy’s 7th birthday party, as I watched a tribe of trackers leaping from sofa to armchair to table… that I decided the next birthday party would be held at a local leisure centre’s ball-play facility. My other three kids’ parties also moved from home to anywhere-somebody-else is-clearing-up after the age of six or seven. (We had a good one at Greenwich Maritime Museum one year. Vack in those days, you could get a family ticket to take in as many kids as you had with you to the Museum and Queen’s House complex, Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark – and go back as many times as you wanted in the year. And then there was the park for your picnic.
    Of course, this was back in the 1980s and ’90s.


    1. I have hosted some of my grandchildren’s parties at my house since we live next door. At the last one they made slime with glitter in it. We are still finding glitter.


  4. Stumbled into your blog and saw the picture – wonderful, happy, memories of pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs – etc! Like many other things, sadly, kids’ parties are often all about money now.


  5. Like you, my birthday parties were always ‘domestic’, with home-made cakes and food. The two most popular games were ‘Musical Chairs’, and ‘Pass The Parcel’. There would sometimes be a little cheating with musical chairs, to allow the birthday boy to win one round. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


  6. Love your memories of games, which mostly overlap with mine. As a mother I was lucky as my first daughter threw herself into party planning so by the time she was about seven I never did much beyond bake a cake.


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