Saturday, April 17, 2010

You Say It’s Your Birthday?

Kids’ birthdays are cause for celebration, BIG celebration. Imagine if you will a large pack of children ranging from toddlers to pre-teens running amok, fueling their already energetic escapades with candy by the handfuls available from tables scattered throughout the party room that looks like it’s ready for a reception (balloon centerpieces on each table-clothed table). Parents sit around chatting and sipping beer or soda. Lots of finger food as well.

Our experience has been that kids’ birthday parties are held on weekend nights and are for the birthday kid’s friends and their siblings and parents from school, work and apartment building as well as extended family. Every apartment has a party room for rent on the patio level of the building so this is the logical place to hold such a large gathering since there are usually over fifty people in attendance. Birthday themes are chosen and matched to invitations, and fairly elaborate backdrops rented (Backyardigans, ‘Cars,’ Ben 10, and Super Heroes are the ones we’ve witnessed personally). A few of the more extravagant parties have included a food train (a train that has different ‘cars’ with popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and special smoking drinks (dried ice added to food-colored sprite – a huge hit with our kids) offered up by hired help and a bouncy house rental.

Another discovery is that the end times listed on invitations are totally irrelevant. We went to a birthday party last Sunday night (yes, Sunday night), which was, according to the invitation, from 5-7 at Pizza Hut. We were the first to leave at 7pm. No one else showed any inclination in leaving any time soon after us. There were close to forty kids and at least as many adults. A one-year old birthday party we attended in our building complex raged on til the wee hours and the next morning looked more like the scene of a college kegger than a celebration of a one-year old. Beer cans (adults) strewn alongside what remained of the party’s decorations and balloons (sugar-crazed kids run amok way after their normal bedtime). Even last night’s celebration (4-year old Thiago’s bash, listed from 5-9) was going strong after Brian and I headed to bed at 10:30.

Parents easily spend one thousand reais (that’s over US$600) for such parties. Invitations, space, backdrop and decoration rental, food, drink, hiring someone to organize the kids for games, etc. It adds up quickly. So why spend this much on a birthday party?

Our take (as heavily influenced by Brian’s social scientist nature): Social networking and bonding, which the parents are well aware is a key feature of their kids' future success here in Brazil.

So Happy Birthday to You! (Here’s the Portuguese version of Happy Birthday, same tune, many more words, with singing and clapping, and faster with each verse)

Parabéns a você,
Nesta data querida.
Muita(s) felicidade(s),
Muitos anos de vida.

Hoje é dia de festa,
Cantam as nossas almas.
Para o/a menino/a (insert name of birthday boy/girl here),
Uma salva de palmas.


  1. Hi Paula,
    I wanted to let you know about an International Postcard Swap for Families I'm hosting at Playing by the book (my blog about kids' books):

    I wondered if you might like to take part, or whether you might be able to spread the news amongst families you think would be interested. Apologies if this comes across as cheeky - it isn't meant that way - i'm just trying to ensure the swap will be as successful for participants as possible by shouting loudly about it! We've got a waiting list for families in the US but would welcome with open arms families from other parts of the world - we haven't any families from Brazil yet!

    All best wishes,

    Playing by the book

  2. ok, I never heard this part
    "Hoje é dia de festa,
    Cantam as nossas almas.
    Para o/a menino/a (insert name of birthday boy/girl here),
    Uma salva de palmas. "

    here in rio Grande do Sul we sometimes sing a completely different song, also different melody:
    "parabens, parabens,
    saudes, felicidades
    que tu colhas sempre todo dia,
    paz e alegria
    na lavoura da amizade"