More Than Cake And Candles
10/21/2014 07:37AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
Gallery: Petit Party People [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
The night before Christmas might put the shine of excitement in the eyes of many little ones, but their birthday morn runs a close second as a day of anticipation, especially in light of the extensive celebrations that have become the norm for birthdays today. But before jumping to any conclusions about longing to return to days of yore, it would be best to look back in the annals of the celebrations, to the ones even before those we can remember.
Origins Of Birthday Celebrations
According to The Lore of Birthdays, taking note of a birthday was first useful mostly for purposes of astrology. Only royalty and important people celebrated birthdays, and the parties were no simple get togethers. They had extensive feasts, and everyone in the royal household was invited. The Greeks started the tradition of lighted candles on a cake, but only important men were allowed the privilege.
By the 14th century, every infant was given a saint’s name at birth, and people celebrated their saint’s feast day instead of their own birthday. The modern children’s birthday party came from Germany in the early 19th century and spread to the U.S. The wealthy Protestant families were the first to give parties for their children. The parents planned the entire thing and invited as many as 40 children from the parents’ set of friends. It became the servants’ jobs to carry out the wishes of the parents as to organizing and, of course, cleaning up.
The “Sweet 16” party became popular in the 1920’s and was a prelude to later debutant balls. In the depression, the large parties became simple family celebrations with a cake served as after dinner dessert. The traditional “Happy Birthday” song was added as a standard in 1934, when it was part of a hit musical.
For a while, birthday parties were simple affairs with cake and ice cream in the back yard of the honoree, with mom’s prayers for no rain. There was no official agenda, just a few balls thrown out, or imaginative minds to decide what could be played next. In the 1950’s, some lucky birthday kids ventured out to a bowling alley or to a swimming pool at a nearby club.
Party Venues Galore!
Now, it seems that every few months, a new party venue has opened, increasing the choices for children and their parents. Acadiana has numerous choices for party venues with creative activities children seem to love, yet some kids still enjoy home parties and appreciate having parents who go the extra mile to make them fun and entertaining.
One of Acadiana’s most popular places to play and learn, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana, has facilities for a unique birthday party. Rachel Dafford, Administrative Director of the museum, says that the museum has long offered its “bonne fete” room for parties, complete with a throne for the birthday boy or girl. A museum hostess will set up and clean up and the package includes paper products and a chocolate chip cookie cake. Kids can enjoy the regular self-guided tour of the interactive museum. The party room can accommodate 12-14 children and is an ideal place for the refreshments and gift opening. A special package is also offered that includes gift bags with museum passes.
Another hands-on activity birthday party venue is Cajun Country Ceramics in Lafayette. Owner Laura Potter says that she can cater to pre-school age children on up. She makes arrangements with parents depending on their wishes to choose a piece of bisque and have the children paint it. Some choose to work with the clay themselves and then paint it. The pieces can be left for firing and picked up at a later date. The idea that the children have made their own party favor is a popular one. The entire party, including refreshments and gifts, lasts two hours, and Potter says she can accommodate 10-12 kids, with a minimum of five.
For boys and girls up to age 7, there is Play and Learn with Me in Lafayette that offers a variety of options for theme and character parties in a 3,000 square ft. facility. Boys might especially be interested in Jedi Training Parties that include Jedi robes and light sabers for use during the party. Jedi Master and Darth Vader characters appear for the training for boys up to age 12. Children can choose from over 20 themes for their parties, and there are several available packages that can include everything from cotton candy to balloon bouquets, as well as the typical paper goods and decorations.
What is unique about this facility is the large number of soft play toys. There is a large screen TV, and parents are encouraged to make a disc featuring their child through the years to be played during the party. Superhero and princess characters can make an appearance. There is an art room to keep the guests occupied, as well as four Android tablets. There are 2-3 employees supervising the kids, so parents can also enjoy the party.
Indulge in Lafayette is a party venue that caters three types of birthday parties for children. From May through September, a Splash Pad party is offered for any age. The facility provides the fun as well as paper goods, drinks, and a birthday cake for 15-20 children. Very appealing to young girls is the Cupcake Party. The girls don an apron and decorate three cupcakes. They also enjoy arts and crafts when they design and construct a box for bringing home a cupcake. Party facilitators direct the guests in how to decorate, and this is easily the most popular of the parties.
The Tea Party offers a short history on tea and etiquette, and the little girls are encouraged to dress up for the occasion. A 3-course high tea is served, with scones, tea sandwiches and dessert. Tables are decorated with linens and a hodge podge of china. Cat King, of Indulge, says, “All the parties are fun for the kids and an incentive for the parents who can just show up without preparing or cleaning up.”
Dayna Price of Oasis Princess Parties in Lafayette began her party business in April 2012, and says she is always busy. “Parents like the convenience of just showing up and not having to clean up afterward. We can even assist at home parties if a child wants a character to appear there.” Price offers a Frozen party, a Snowflake Princess party, a Princess party and an American Doll Tea party. What little girl wouldn’t stand in awe if Belle appeared at her party!
The tea party refreshments are always popular. A large table is set for guests and their dolls to enjoy lemonade in their teacups, with pink and blue cotton candy to color the tea. Rounding out the menu are brownies, cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries. Price always has costumes to borrow to make the occasion more realistic.
If the birthday honoree wants to get moving and be cool, there is Planet Ice in Lafayette. Party manager Jillian McDonald has been supervising birthday parties for two years and says they are quite popular. For guests who don’t know how to ice skate, there is the ‘skate buddy’ that glides on the ice and can help even a 3 year old enjoy the skates and the ice. McDonald says the movie “Frozen” has increased the popularity of ice skating parties and the rink often has 10-14 parties per weekend. The rink has a party room to accommodate refreshments and gifts.
Stacey Mejia, owner of Acadiana Karate, says her Youngsville facility offers birthday parties which include a karate lesson as well as some practical instructions on self-respect and recognizing bullying. This educational component makes the party valuable as well as fun. A fun jump is available and guests learn karate moves and how to break wood by the end of the party. The party is for ages 4-12, both boys and girls, and lasts for 11/2 hours. The honoree cuts the cake with a samurai sword.
There are many more birthday party venues in Acadiana, and the party at home is still popular. Sometimes a face painter or a character in costume is invited to make a visit. Sometimes games are planed and sometimes guests are invited to be creative. At some parties, the honoree requests that no gifts be sent, but, instead, a donation be made to a charity. One child requested that each guest bring a canned good to be donated to a local food bank.
Although the descendant of Emily Post still maintains that paper and pen are mandatory, some party planners choose to send invitations via email. Almost everyone agrees that children be taught to show appreciation for any gift. Although much has changed in the world of birthday parties, much has remained the same. A birthday party, regardless of size, is an opportunity to celebrate a life, and that is always a reason to rejoice.