Sunday, April 18, 2010

Birthdays in America – OR Survival Tips

In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking much about birthdays in America. This is of course because we threw a 2fer party for both kids together who are celebrating their 4th and 1st birthday now. Also, this is the first time I wrote here in more than a year. Coincidence? Me thinking not… Also me maybe forgetting how to talk grammar right… me need sleep…

Anyway, this was quite of the Hollywood production, and there’s a slight chance that once again I ordered way too much food, and with that a free pass of mockery of me for the next year. Why have I ordered enough Pizzas and cakes to survive a nuclear bombed environment for the next 50 years? Because I’ve been traumatized by other birthday parties in America.

So since Lia joined preschool, we started getting invited to all these kid birthdays. For some reason, October and April are really busy months for birthdays. I guess the post-Holiday blues in January and the patriotic feelings of July 4th in which people believe they should add people to the US nation are at fault for that…

While not all, most of these parties have either no food, really bad food, or both (which actually gets you to be better off if you think about it). I mean, I’ve witnessed kids leaving birthday parties begging to get one more box of juice. These are boxes that cost less than a 30 cents a piece.

‘Honey, should we put another juice box in the cart?’

“No! Are you crazy?”

“What if we run out?”

“We must draw the line here! No further!”

“At juice boxes? But the entertainer costs $280”

“Where will it end? Where I ask you? It’s a slippery slope… it starts with one more box of juice, and ends with a whole other packet of mini-hot-dogs, and then where will we be?”

“We’re in Costco… one more bag of 5,000 mini-hot-dogs costs $3.99. And the second one’s free…”


“But think of the children”

“They’ll be ok – there’s water in the park”

“The one that the dogs drink from?”

“It’s fine…”

“I think I’ve seen a rabid-stricken raccoon drinking from it last week…”

I guess I shouldn’t surprised – why would these events be different than most American weddings? Oh, no he di’int… Oh, yes I did!

As a tip, if you want not to collapse for lack of nutrients in a birthday party, eat a large meal at home first. If that is not a possibility, go first. You need to surround the empty table to be the first to get to the food. Do not be naïve and fall for the arts and crafts table – that’s what they want you to do. Those are diversions and the less fortunate than you will go there. Be smart – send your spouse to the arts and crafts and you stay guard so you can holler to your family when the few items come out. Then go for it – take what you can on a single plate. Remember – all is fair in love and war.

Otherwise, you need to start searching for the nearest Taco Bell to stop at on your way back.

As most media I consume in my life now consists of animated and fury animals, I remember this birthday episode of Elmo’s World Lia liked.

There was an animated segment about ‘the girl who loved birthdays”:

“…she loved birthdays so much, she traveled all over the world to celebrate her friends' birthdays.

She went to Iceland, where they had special pancakes with syrup for her friend Bjorn's birthday.” (apparently Americans have been celebrating Icelandic birthdays every day in IHOP for years – hey, now I get the I!)

“She went to Mexico, where they had a piñata for her friend Carmen’s birthday.”

“She went to Israel, where they played a game called Bli Yadayim for her friend Avi's birthday. ‘- Try to get your hat on your head without using your hands.’”

So I grew up in Israel. I’ve been to some, I don’t know, 42 birthdays every year for quite a few years. Of all these hundreds of birthdays I’ve never played this ‘Bli Yadayim’ game they speak of. Have no idea where this is coming from, and makes me question the Bjorn tale too now. Why would you lie to me Elmo? Why? Crushingly disappointing…

What I do remember from Israel is the traditional Jewish ceremony of birthdays in which people get together as family for ‘Café-ve-ooga’ which means ‘coffeeandcake’. As you can see, that is a singular word as one cannot possibly be consumed without the other. This is a little-known-tradition of Jewish families going back thousands of years in which our forefathers met to break… cake and sip coffee in their desert tents for birthdays. This would be the same for a 3 year-old or for an 83 year-old. Ironically, kids many times cannot drink the beverage of choice in these events.

In the U.S., the most interesting birthday phenomenon is the ever-high-comedic-value of the office birthday. The difference here can range anywhere from a boss’s grunt to acknowledge one’s birthday, to a 7-day festival in which military planes spell your name in the sky, followed by fireworks spelling your birth date. The difference hinges on the sole factor of whether your boss or colleague is a birthday aficionado or not. That’s it. Tip – if you don’t like these kind of shenanigans, keep your birthday to yourself – threaten HR with a lawsuit if your birthday becomes common knowledge. If you do like it, befriend the jolliest woman in the office – over the age of 35 is a good bet – expect cakes, balloons and a song; if she has cats, you’re golden – expect your favorite rock band to serenade you ‘Say Anything’-like outside your office window.

As for my own birthdays, they don’t exist anymore. When Lia was born, my birthday moved down to last priority. When Aviv was born, it completely fell off the list to a point that when I’m asked how old I am, it takes me a few seconds to calculate the answer.

So the birthday party has been crazy and much success. We were lucky to have great weather, Tinker Bell came, there were birthday cakes enough to feed the park (literally, there was another party next by who were very happy to get the second cake). It’s been some 3 months of planning and I need 3 months of recuperating time from that. We had to take a new mortgage for all the Pizzas, and my clothes are now all green from the birthday cake frosting. Some people might say we went over-board. Could be…
Mid-party, just as Tinker Bell was explaining something about the next adventure, Lia spontaneously came to Maya and me, hugged us and then the 4-year old said ‘thank you for my birthday party and for bringing Tinker Bell for me…” and ran back. That makes it all worth it…