Apologies for the delay, folks, but here is the promised post about first birthday parties. I’m working on the delicious salsa recipe too!
My nephew Tomas recently had his first birthday, and during the festivities I was struck by just how differently these first birthdays are celebrated in Mexican culture. It was our good friend Gwen who looked completely shocked when she asked, “Is that a DJ setting up?” Yes, indeed it was. First birthdays are celebrated with all the fanfare of a 21stbirthday here – just add in a bouncy house and piñata.
I knew the party would be a typical Mexican bash when my cuñado (bro-in-law) posted this to the Facebook event page.
This might be a bit exaggerated for laughs, but it’s not that far off. First birthday parties are a big event. Of course there’s the baby’s birthday, but let’s be honest, these birthday parties are a way for parents to have a little dance party with friends and family while the kids play together. Case in point, my nephew’s birthday included your typical festing, such as the obligatory smash cake, food, piñata, and bounce house (is this last one normal?? My kid didn’t get one.) It also included a DJ, dancing, and drinking until midnight! You might see an invitation that says, “Time: 2 pm – 12 am.” Not a typo.
Side note for fun: There’s this “great” little Mexican tradition of trying to smash the birthday girl/boy’s face in the cake when they take the first mandatory bite. I learned this the hard way… (see photo below). I was surprised to see that one year olds don’t necessarily get immunity from this tradition. Tomas had a mild cake face compared to mine, though! I’m still scarred. This is not my favorite Mexican tradition.
Just as the DJ was ramping up, the Americans were taking their kids home to get ready for bed. The Mexican family and friends were settling in for a night of debauchery. People actually brought super-sized bottles of tequila as “host gifts” to this party. Kind of odd for a one year old’s birthday, right? Nope. This is pretty standard stuff. There were jokes, stories, canciones (songs), and dancing. The kids were off playing or watching a movie upstairs while the parents enjoyed the evening festivities in the garage. Of course babies are passed around to the mommies in the group and eventually fall asleep out of sugar crashes or sheer exhaustion. I know mine did! It’s a different way of celebrating the first year, that’s for sure.
Here’s what I know, though. Mexicans are incredibly focused on family. It’s the most important thing in their lives, and they devote a lot of time and love to their kids and spouse. Since this doesn’t always involve getting out to the bar or dance club with friends, these family get togethers provide an opportunity to cut loose. And they do! Imagine, too, the size of Mexican families. A simple invitation to close family members could easily yield 50 attendees. That’s a party already! It’s not just first birthdays either. First Communions, baptism, other birthdays, any reason to celebrate. Call the DJ, book the hall, fill your truck with booze y vamos a bailar!