English Birthday Parties

Figure 1.--Party hats were a standard at English birtday parties. Here the party goers are having the ivecream and cake. Note not only are the children dressed up, but mother has set a formal table. That is something you would not see today.

Perhaps the most common type of parties for English children are birthday parties. They are not the only type of children's parties, but are the most common for younger children. We do not know how birthdays were celebrted in the 19th century. We do begin to see celebrtions in the 20th century. Many of the tradotions are the same as in America which we do not fully understand as the break with Britain occurred in the 18th century. And from the very first 20th century birthday snapshots we see party hats and birthday cakes with candels. Younger children commonly invite motly friends of the same gender. Also family members commonly participated, inclusing grand parents as well as aunts and uncles. Parties used to be fairly simple affairs, although more formal than is now the case. Until after World War II, children often dressed up for parties. The events were baically small parties with family and some friends in the home and back garden. The children commonly dressed up through the 1960s. You can see everyone in their party clothes here (figure 1). Party hats were passed out as well as crackers. Activities included standards such as blind man's bluff, musical chairs, pass the parcel, and pin the tail on the donkey. Refreshments were icecream and cake. Birthday parties have since become more casual. h And are no longer restricted to the child's home. They are now held at various fun sites as well. Here seasonality is a factor. And the acgtivities more diverse. Theme parties are popular. We do not see the modern extravaganzas until the late-20th century. Older children have more diverse parties and not just birthday parties. And like the parties for younger children, dress has become more casual. Invitees brought gifts for the birtday child. They in turn could win prizes playing the various games. We note a trend in modern parties to give the children party bags on their way home.


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Created: 8:26 PM 7/10/2011
Last updated: 3:48 AM 10/1/2018