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Why have kids birthdays become so fancy?:

Kat Caravella on the growing extravagance of kids parties
By Kat Caravella
Date: September 28 2013
Editor Rating:

It was my daughter's 4th birthday on Wednesday and on Sunday we are having a little party for her. And for what started as "not a party" - it's become quite the party.

After my littlest's 1st birthday in March (which half the invitees didn't turn up because, you know, two hour drives are life threatening) I was so well and truly stressed about the cleaning, the decorations, the lolly bags, the cake, the food that it positively drove me bonkers.

So I told my husband, that's it! One party a year, the girls can take turns!  Which would have meant that since we had a party for Vida, Sienna would miss out this year. And so initially, we settled on a little "Maccas party", which became a "Play Centre party" and then even a "Farm party". Really, I just wanted it anywhere but at home.

So why the hell am I now having it at home? I thought about it, long and hard. Having it at home would mean I could actually - well, as much as possible - try to socialise because I know my kids are pretty safe in my house and I am not helicopter parenting (which I am known to do).

It would mean people could drive from Sydney for the day and stay as long as they wanted as opposed to being kicked out at a venue party after 2 or so hours.

And importantly, it would mean we could eat and drink what we bloody well liked. So we decided to do it at home but with the invitees restricted to immediate family and close friends - the result being that it would be smallish.

As I said on the phone to everyone invited a month ago - there would be no lolly buffet and fancy cake table and over-the-top decorations - it will be purely a come eat, drink and be merry soiree. With fairy music.

But alas, my casual soiree has been a little interrupted by, you know, stuff. And I - accidentally I think - got into 'party' mode.

I bought lovely decorations, hired a clown, got food catered and the rest. Even for my little group of 20 or so. Which got me thinking - I had the best parties when I was little and I am pretty sure I didn't have a lolly buffet.

I recall balloons but not extravagant decorations. I remember delicious round and plain-ish birthday cakes - definitely not baked and decorated in the shape of a LV handbag (I went to a 5th birthday recently and the birthday cake was a Chanel bag. I kid you not)

And as for the food, there was always a monster table of mixed dishes and my Dad would be manning the BBQ while trying to get everybody drunk.

There were big bowls of lollies and chips - old school style. Lolly bags were a printed plastic bag filled with loose candy, lollypops and balloons. Music would be blaring, the kids played together while the adults socialised and everyone always had a great time.

Looking back, birthday parties were just so delightfully simple. And now, well, they seem to be a fashion statement.

My friend told me that she recently went to a party and the cake table was so magnificent, the decorations were spectacular, the lolly buffet was simply amazing. It looked like they had hired an event coordinator to style it.But there was no atmosphere, it was just so ... quiet. And actual food was nowhere to be seen.

Everything just looked so perfect... so much so, that it wasn't. And then we got to talking about our own parties when we were kids. I am from a Greek family, and we love to celebrate - loudly. Think lots of food, lots of booze, lots of music. But food for us is probably the single most important thing to a party. The single!

Stuff the decorations - where are the souvlakis and how many are there? Food is so crucial to a Greek event that I have probably never been to a wedding without someone at my table either criticising or complimenting the food. 

And if I am asked about the wedding the next day by a family member (often by an Aunty or Grandparent), one of the first questions is "how was the food?" - as if it's the indication of a successful event!

And so when it comes to parties, I have always had it positively instilled in me from a young age that above all else, food is most definitely the priority.

And as running out of food is possibly the biggest embarrassment in the world, we Greeks are known to make enough to feed a small country. But don't fret - it won't be wasted because almost everyone at the party will stay for a second round later on in the day and maybe a third at night.

And when I think about all the best parties I have been to, they all have had these key ingredients - the company was excellent, the food was good, the drinks were aplenty and there were some good tunes on to get everyone bopping, bevies in hand.

And so my point is simply this - and I am not claiming to be innocent here because I, too, like to fancy it up sometimes - why have things become so flashy when the heart of a good party is the VIBE? Are we, often without realising, competing with each other as to who has the fanciest kids party? After all, what 4-year-old gives a toss about that balloon centerpiece that cost you 100 bucks when one, single, character balloon would probably suffice?Do these kids notice the fancy lolly "boxes" - or would a bag of lollies equally make their day?

Either way, my little Sienna is having a little party this weekend, with enough decorations and entertainment to make sure she knows it’s a special day for her.

But I have ditched the lolly buffet.

Kat is co-owner of Red White and Bubbles, a full-time mum, an almost Media Graduate and living a nomadic existence as the significant other of a professional sportsman in the A-League. As well as writing for Motherpedia, Kat blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter @katcaravella.

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