Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Jake's Birthday!

Submarine cake English side
Submarine cake Italian side

It was several weeks ago now that Jake celebrated his 6th birthday with his first ever birthday party in Italy.

Now, I never thought that I would ever be concerned about birthday party etiquette - after holding 5 birthday parties for Jake and 3 for Josh I thought I kind of knew what to do and what the children (and other parents!!) would expect.  It never dawned on me that birthday parties might be so different from country to country until...

I gave out the invitations to the party. Sunday lunch time, 12.00. My first surprise was when two sets of parents asked me, straight faced, if I meant midnight. "What?! For a 6 year old's birthday party?!" I thought to myself, and yet, they didn't seem shocked at the idea. Now, they could have just been humouring me - this strange woman that turns up from England with her unusual birthday party traditions - but for some reason I'm just not convinced.

Then, another two mums approached me (the school run here frequently involves stopping for coffee at the CafĂ© Giardini after the drop off, where you also bump into a fair few of the other parents). "Is a party at lunchtime something that you do in your country?" they asked bluntly. "No," I replied in my best Italian, "We don't really have a set time for birthday parties, but I thought as the children have school the next day lunchtime would be best." To which came the reply "Oh, we thought it must be something from your country as birthday parties are always late in the day here." Black mark number 1 on how to organise an Italian birthday party! 

Party Table!
Pass the parcel!

The day of the party arrived, I was running around like a crazy woman making sure I had everything ready:
- cake...check
- home made pasta sauce...check
- presents wrapped for pass the parcel...check
- prizes for musical statues, and musical chairs...check

Renowned for their laid back attitude, I was pleasantly surprised when most of our Italian guests arrived within half an hour of the specified time!!

It was a hot day and the children were running around together excited about the party. However, it seems that it is not the done thing for Italian children to sweat... and yet, Italian mums dress their children up in shirts and jumpers - or winter tights and dresses, when the temperature outside is nearing 30c. Excitable children, layers of clothing and rather warm temperatures, does not bode well for sweat prevention! Black mark number 2.

So, drinks in the shade to cool down I thought and, yes, you've guessed it - Black mark number 3! It seems a birthday party is just not a birthday party in Italy without half a dozen bottles of coke, orangeade, lemonade, etc. So my British 'blackcurrant squash' was eyed with great suspicion, with most children opting for the alternative choice of water...and the mum's smiling at me through gritted teeth!

However, I think I redeemed myself with the sweet treats. This year Jake wanted a submarine cake. I made and iced the cake, even putting both a white ensign and an Italian flag on it, and piping writing in both languages to show our appreciation of our new home country. In addition, I made flapjacks and cup cakes. The mum's all enjoyed tucking in, but it seems I still didn't get it quite right - one mum brought a tray full of mini pastries from the local baker's for the children, just in case my English ways weren't quite up to scratch! Oh well...there's always next year to get it right!


  1. Oh man! It's at times like these that Italian directness really comes across as rude! I mean, it's one thing for kids to be suspicious of new things, but the mums?!

  2. Ooooh well...Michelle, do not worry...it's a bit like the French, in'it?! Weird and always seem to be proud of themselves!!!! Maybe I did stay too long in England as I would have done the same as you did!!!... My turn next year maybe with Theo 3rd birthday!!! already! : ) Take care XXX

  3. I've missed you and your in'it's Rara! At least I've already had the 'experience' of living in France so can laugh at my 'cultural inadequacies!' Theo 3 next year...wow, that has gone quick. Love to you all.xx

  4. The Birthday cake looks fantastic Michelle. xx