Our kids have been to many birthday parties over the year but yesterday was Lilu’s turn, and boy, was it a crazy ride.
I didn’t know where to start. I hadn’t really been to any of the other kid’s parties throughout the year because of my work hours, so Moose had all the experience. However, being Norwegian, Moose never thinks that Norwegian things are special, different, or that there is anything particular he should mention about normal Norwegian things – he is usually no help when he answers ‘same as everywhere else’. It seems I am right to never believe him.
Catering for seven year olds can be tricky, even in my own culture. There are certain expectations that must be fulfilled – cake is one of them! I didn’t want to do anything weird or crazy (being an outlander), but I still wanted to put in a little of Lilu’s Australian heritage. Pass-the-parcle is a regular party game in Australia but is not heard of in Norway so it was perfect for the party, and as it has no name in Norwegian, we decided to call it ‘send pakke‘ (send the package). I wanted to call it ‘varm potet‘ – hot potato – but that would take too much explaining for little kids. Moose and I often have to make up Norwegian names for things that are only found in English. It is quite fun; one of the perks of living in a bilingual family. We also decided to have fairy-bread (sprinkles on buttered bread), which, therefore having no name in Norwegian, we have dubbed ‘Tingelingbrød‘ (Tinkerbell bread). Everything else I tried to do the Norwegian way (which basically means down-playing everything). Well, I tried, at least.
Lilu loves crafts so we decided to make the invites ourselves. We got very creative with glitter, cut outs and stickers. They turned out lovely, like a little girl’s dream. But apparently, making our own cards was a very elaborate thing to do, a little ‘over-the-top’. Most are just bought at the store or are computer print outs, so when Lilu handed the cards out they were received with extra excitement.
We invited 20 boys and girls. The school rule says that if we want to invite people from school then we have to invite the entire class or all the girls or all the boys in the class. No one is allowed to be left out. There was a big story in the news last year in Norway about passive bullying by exclusion and kids not turning up to parties because the birthday kid wasn’t popular. Norwegians took it to heart and now social rules are set that everyone should be invited. I have no problem with that. But the school didn’t tell us they also changed a rule saying that cards weren’t allowed to be given out during school hours. What? Before or after school was the time to hand them out, they said. (So that’s why we’ve had a number of people hand-delivering invites to our front door. I thought it was strange; that maybe they had just forgotten to hand them out and now had to quickly race round to every house to get them out in time.) So now we also found ourselves making a 20-stop trip around the neighbourhood hand-delivering invites. (Probably another reason why the school hands out a class list of contacts to all families with kids in that class). Lilu was graciously welcomed at every door as she handed over the invites, which action seemed to create even more excitement for the coming event.
One of the weird things about Norwegian birthday invites is the RSVP. Rather than ‘tell me if you are coming or not’ cards say only ‘tell me if you are not coming’ as if everyone is expected to come unless otherwise stated. This can be problematic because you don’t know if everyone is actually coming to the party or they have just forgot to reply back to say they aren’t. We found we had to sms everyone to confirm they were all coming as we hadn’t heard anything from anyone. I didn’t know how much food I needed to buy or make, and I had a fear that perhaps no one would show up and just forgot to cancel. But the group-sms proofed valuable as everyone got back to us to say they were coming – all 20!!!
To gather info about what was expected for a Norwegian party today (Moose is a little out of date with his party-going-info) I asked around my dance students. Pølse med brød, or hot dogs, were a must. Lollies, potato chips and cookies, and of course, the birthday cake. It seemed easy enough. Lilu wanted a marzipan layer cake, but with so many kids there would likely be a nut allergy somewhere. So I made a fondant layer cake instead. I must of done well because the kids at the party couldn’t stop looking at it and ‘awwwing’.
We held the party at the SFO, the school’s After School Care room. It is a big activity room with everything you need – kitchen, media equipment, tables and chairs, etc. No hiring necessary, just a booking and the keys were handed over happily. No rules or must-do’s, they knew we would look after the place and thoroughly clean up. (It is rather nice to be immediately trusted.)
The party was after SFO on a Monday from 16.30 to 18.00. This time was perfect, un-intrisive of people’s schedules, (as you need to choose days and times a little more wisely with a birthday in December) and short enough to not feel like we have to ‘entertain’. Activities went as follows: welcomes (The other parents all took off and left us to it. I was surprised at how trusting they were. Some didn’t even come in to meet us.); pass-the-parcle game in which the kids thoroughly enjoyed with all the pulling faces, yelling cock-a-doodle-do and swapping places. (I had to convince the girl who won that the gift was for her, not for Lilu.); pølser and a buffet of goodies for the meal; making balloon dogs; birthday cake – they wanted to sing happy birthday in English!; opening presents; and home-time with ‘thanks yous’ and giving of goodie bags.
The party was a success, I think. It went so fast. All I can remember is blowing up sausage balloons constantly (Moose was the star turning them into dogs), refilling up cups over and over for the boys (I felt guilty about all the liquid sugar I was giving them and was sure one kid was going to wet the bed, he had so much!), and trying to convince the boys that they will like their goodie bag even though there were no lollies in it. (We put a bunch of lego in and other toys we got cheap off ebay – couldn’t bring myself to give them any more sugar; I felt guilty enough with the soda and cake). Even still, the boys were asking where all the lollies were (hehehe – I didn’t buy any – I thought the fairy bread, cheezles, pretzels, soda, cookies, hot dogs and cake was enough sugar – and I was right!). The kids were a little psycho and we forgot that at seven, boys don’t want to play with girls, so keeping the party in one piece was not going to happen. And I forgot one kid was Muslin and I had to check out everything she was eating – no hot dog for her! And OMG! the birthday presents. They were so expensive! I felt so guilty. For the whole year I’ve been sending Lilu to all the other parties with just a little gumball machine gift, thinking that Norwegians would prefer a cute, but un-intimidating gift. Boy, was I wrong.
I’ve learnt so many lessons about holding a Norwegian birthday party yesterday. I’m glad we made it easy on ourselves and just went with the flow. The kids seemed to have a blast just running around and jumping on everything. It was a wild 90 minutes, any longer and I think I would have needed some oxygen. I have never seen Norwegian kids so excited and hypo. The birthday girl had a great time, it seemed like the other kids did too. (I felt a little sorry for the parents, giving them back a hypo-delic kid to settle down for the night.)
Next year – bring it on!