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Celebrating Birthday Parties

My little grandson’s birthday party is right upon us and someone asked the question, “Will there be rum punch and beer at the party?” Someone else quickly added, “Why should there be? Of course not, because this is a children’s party, not an adult’s party.” I was very happy for this and this led me to reminisce about children’s parties 25 years ago.

The invitation was by word of mouth. The party boy came personally to your house and informed you and your parents that there was going to be a party starting at three in the afternoon. On the day of the party, one took an early swim and combed his hair for the occasion. During normal circumstances, he would not comb his hair. How about shoes? No, no shoes! Boys and girls over seven went to the party alone. Those who were about five were brought by their mom or an older sister, but they did not stay for the party.

The party started when you offered your specially wrapped gift, usually in some old newspaper or colored paper, to the party boy or girl. Sometimes we got those national geographic magazines with the glossy pages and those made excellent paper to wrap our gifts. The most popular gifts were a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a ruler, an exercise book, a pencil or perhaps a pen, a bar of Palmolive soap, or even a pint of soda or pop. When one got a toy like a small soldier, car, pistol, or doll, that was something to celebrate. The other party people felt small, but fortunately it was not the custom to open the gifts at the party, so nobody knew what you gave. For that matter also, some people never wrote their name on the gift nor birthday card.

The party then continued with the offering of a slice of cake with a glass of warm lemonade. This lemonade was not really lemonade but rather some pop that came in various flavors. Any cheese dip? No. Any sausage rolls or other fancy snacks. No. After a while we were offered a potted meat sandwich or perhaps a corned beef or spam sandwich. Those were not offered at all parties, only at the wealthy children’s parties.

Finally it was time to burst the pañata or papool as we called it. The piñata was always a round ball made with the pumpkin shell. That was cracked with a bat and to add to the fun, some flower mixed with body powder was put inside the piñata and this would cause a hilarious commotion when it was cracked. And after the piñata, we filled our pockets with candies and were more than happy to go home. What about the special cartoon basket or bag with goodies. Forget it; that was unheard of 25 years ago. Was there a band or a D.J.? Forget it; perhaps there was a radio playing music from Radio Belize. With some good luck there could be a record player playing those 33 revolutions long plays with six songs on each side of the record. And what about rum? Forget it! If you did that you stood the high chances of being arrested. And so we celebrated in great style our birthday parties 25 years ago. I only had one birthday party celebrated when I was seven and I think I hid under the bed most of the time.

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