The Evolution of the Birthday Party From the 80s to Now

by ParentCo. September 21, 2016

My fellow children of the 1980s, what was more thrilling than getting that little envelope from a classmate? You barely made it home before it was opened. Yes, it was a great time to be alive. You were going to a birthday party!

Nowadays, birthday parties are still celebrated. They are still thrilling. However, we must admit that things are a wee bit different.

1 | Themes? Really?

Okay, so in the past few years I've done them all: Frozen, Hello Kitty, Paw Patrol and at least one superhero. Unless my memory is failing at an early age, I don’t remember 80s parties having any specific theme. The theme wound up being whatever your mom could get her hands on at the dollar store. It didn’t matter if she set up your Sesame Street cups next to Barbie plates and Strawberry Shortcake napkins. She got a good deal and that's what mattered. So quit your whining!

2 | No “character” cakes

Remember that guy Tom Carvel? Well, we worshipped him in our family. Ice cream cake was the bomb! My mom got me a cake one time and it was in the shape of a heart. Who was better than me? Nobody! There was no need to construct a ten-tier cake out of fondant. Ice-cream cakes were also commonly served with soda, which resulted in a weird aftertaste. It didn’t matter – it was Carvel!

3 | No elaborate favors

Again, your mom found some goody bags at the dollar store. She typically filled them with small toys that nobody had any use for. These toys would commonly be lost before you even left the party. A whistle, eraser, silly putty, and a little camera that took no pictures were just some of my personal faves.

4 | No more “ring and run”

Those were the good old days! Your mom would drop you by the door and ran like hell. Nowadays, since the parties are more elaborate, moms have no time to worry about other people’s kids. What do you think Mrs. Johnson is; a babysitting service? For larger parties, the host may ask you to stay. Oh, and maybe even help out if you don’t mind. Don’t expect to be able to bring any additional children either. That’s just plain nervy.

5 | You RSVP'd by telephone

This was back when some people still had rotary phones. Answering machines didn’t become popular until the 1990s. For any anti-social types like me, be grateful you were not an adult during that decade. You actually had to talk to people. No simple text message. No Evite option. You had to communicate verbally.

6 | No fancy entertainment

Whatever happened to pin the tail on the donkey? Fun game, no? Back in the day, there were no bouncy houses or DJs. There were no pony rides on the front lawn. We did freeze dance and charades. Oh, and sometimes we “prank called” people. The cell phone totally killed that fun pasttime.

7 | Everyone showed up and was happy about it

Parties were serious business and a big deal. It was good, pure, innocent fun. Given the bustling schedules of kids today, not everyone can make it. Some may have a family event. Others may have a sporting commitment. Some don't even bother responding or showing up. It's kind of sad, actually.

The good news is that we still celebrate this special day with our kids; even with all the modifications. In spite of the fact that (let’s be honest), moms did most of the hard work on the day our little angels were born. It doesn’t matter, though, as long as they're happy. I'm actually off to plan one for the year 2020, and nobody is allowed to steal my ideas. So don’t even bother asking.



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