When we first moved to France last August we had to make decisions about what to do about les filles anniversaires. Both their birthdays, a fortnight within one another, occurred a few months after we arrived. We didn’t know many people, our youngest daughter was only about to turn two and our eldest was about to turn five. As the former wouldn’t benefit from a party as she was so young and the latter didn’t know much French, along with the consideration that we where living in a friends gîte, we decided to have small, family affairs.
Wow! Was that a lucky move. French birthday parties are a lot smaller, low key affairs than their English counter parts and I think we would have been looked upon with shock if we’d had an English style affair.
A few months later, when La Plus Grande Fille went to her first birthday party, I discovered the format; party games, cake, maybe a small gift bag. That’s it. No birthday tea, no hiring of venues, clowns, themes…..just simple. Think the 40s and you have it.
In fact when our French lunch guests visited recently we discussed this and they were telling us how her sister shared the same shock when she encountered the English culture.
As a result you really need to think of timing any French children’s birthday party after lunch, for 2.30 onwards. This way they’ve eaten and can have their party games prior to the cake as a goûter.
Prior to the party I went to my new favourite store Action, were I bought too many things as the price was so cheap. I think I overspent on sweeties too as we had goody bags stuffed full of sweets and lots of prizes that looked expensive but weren’t. I hope we didn’t look like show offs, I think I was over compensating as there was no birthday tea. It felt weird to do a birthday party were I didn’t have lots of food preparation before hand.
I decided just to have classic English party games as, although they’re not new to us, they’re new to little children aren’t they? The children loved them, especially the bum shuffling race.
I’d written all the game rules out in French, you can download them here if you want, but I found I kept starting explanations in English. The first time I did it I was talking for some time when my husband pointed it out! I suddenly looked at the group of extremely polite, little French faces staring at me with bemused expressions.
One of the parents stayed with her youngest son. She’s married to an englishman and they both live in France. We met on the first day of the new school year when I heard them talking English. Their eldest son is in La Plus Grande Fille’s class and as we started chatting it became clear that her grandfather owns the house we rent! In fact during her visit she was telling me how she recently found a picture of herself as a baby in the living room.
I’m so glad it all went so well. Now, finally, Le Marie And I are getting some sleep. We’ve been woken up constantly with the excitement of her birthday for too long now!