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Monday, 05 January 2009

Jelly, ice-cream and party games

First of all, let me start by wishing you all a happy and healthy 2009! Thank you for all the amazing comments you left: it made us all feel very warm and proud!

Yesterday was the first day back in the office for most people, so it was a strange feeling to be sitting back at a desk after nearly two weeks at home. What a surprise when our postman came in carrying a large parcel. Paul and I got to work with the scissors and inside was a wonderful present from Adriana: chocolates, a berimbau and a handcrafted container for cachaca! We've already eaten the chocolates, but the other gifts have gone on display in our cabinet right by the door, so that everyone can admire them: thank you Adriana!

While I was on leave over Christmas I was still moderating your comments, thinking about you all and wracking my brains about what to write for the first staff blog of 2009. I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, so that was out. I spent a quiet Christmas at home, so that was out too. Then inspiration struck! If you've read some of the previous blogs, you'll know that I run a Ranger Unit. On 1st January 2009, we celebrated our 10th birthday. Although the original Rangers are now adults (one is even married), I'm still in touch with some of them and so we decided to have a birthday party. They range in age from 16 to 25 - so you'd expect them to want a sophisticated party, wouldn't you? With nice food and posh clothes? Right? Wrong! They decided they wanted an old fashioned children's birthday party, with party games and children's food. Some even turned up in their slippers and pyjamas!

It got me thinking about parties when I was a child.

This is my 4th birthday party and actually, not much has changed: the food is still the same, the games are still the same: the only difference is that now all the guests expect to take a "party bag" home with them - that's a bag filled with small gifts and sweets. When I was a child, the guests brought presents for the person celebrating their birthday and that was all. Actually these days a lot of children don't celebrate their birthday with a party at home, but take their friends out for a bowling party, or a party in a burger restaurant or a swimming pool. It's much easier for the parents, as they don't have to entertain the children and there's no clearing up to do! However, it's also very expensive.

Anyway, back to our old fashioned party. I don't know what games are played at children's parties in your country - it would be really interesting to know and to know if you recognise any of these games:

Pass the parcel This is a "must have" game for any party. Everyone sits in a circle, music plays and a large wrapped parcel is passed from person to person. When the music stops, the person holding the parcel takes off a layer of paper: inside there is either a sweet or a forfeit: the forfeit can be anything from "Tell a joke" (What do you call a snowman in the summer?
A puddle!) to "Stand on your hands" (see the end of this blog for the easy way to do this). When the forfeit has been completed, the music starts again and the parcel is passed on. Eventually, after many layers, there is a small gift in the middle.

Musical chairs A row of chairs is set out, one facing to the left, the next to the right, the next to the left and so on - enough for all the players except one. When the music starts, the players walk round all the chairs. When the music stops, everyone sits on a chair - the person who doesn't have a chair is out. The game starts again, but another chair is removed, so that there are still not enough chairs for the players. This carries on until there are 2 players left, but only one chair - the person who is first to sit on the chair when the music stops wins a prize.

What's the time Mr Wolf? One player is the wolf and stands at the end of the room with their back to all the other players. The players move forwards, stop and ask "What's the time Mr Wolf?" The wolf doesn't turn round but calls out a time e.g. "It's 2 o'clock." The players take another step forward and ask the same question. The wolf replies with a different time. The player's aim is to get to the wolf before he decides "It's dinner time": when he says that, he turns round and chases all the players: if he catches a player, they are out. All the other players go back to the start and the game continues until the wolf has caught all the players, or one of the players reaches the wolf.

Musical bumps or statues Very easy: everyone dances to the music until it stops. If you're playing musical bumps, everyone has to sit on the floor immediately. The last person to sit on the floor is out. If you're playing musical statues, when the music stops, everyone has to freeze in place - if you move you're out!

Did you ever play any of those games?

Of course, the other important part of any birthday party is the food. What do English children eat at parties? Here's what we had at our party:

Pizza: cheese and tomato flavour
Cheese and pineapple on sticks: a cube of cheese and a piece of tinned pineapple stuck on a cocktail stick
Sausage rolls: minced pork meat in puff pastry
Cheese triangles: small triangles of cheese spread - a mixture of cheese, butter and milk
Cucumber sticks: long pieces of cucumber (well we have to eat something healthy ;-) )
Cocktail sausages: very small sausages, eaten cold
Party rings: small biscuits with brightly coloured icing
Jelly (American English: jello): raspberry, pineapple or orange flavour with ice-cream

and of course....birthday cake

So as you can see, we all had great fun! I'm looking forward to hearing from you about children's birthday parties: until the next time, take care!


to be in touch with: to contact someone by letter, phone or email
a forfeit: a task that has to be performed when you lose in a game
to be out: to be out of the game - i.e. not allowed to play the game any more
to freeze in place : to stand completely still
tinned: from a tin - not fresh
puff pastry: light, flaky pastry

PS: I nearly forgot: here's how to stand on your hands the hard way:

And this is the easy way:


Hello Carrie! Let me start(just like you)with wishes for an unforgettable new year with a lot of joyful moments. which will make you happy and fulfilled. Life is supposed to be funny and we are the only ones this fact depends on. To be honest, taking friends out and enjoying is not my adorable way for celebrating. I am not too old(in my eyes of course) but I like more "old-fashioned" ways of celebrating than the modern ones. I got the impression that teenagers nowadays have completely different view about enjoying. I recognized some of the games you had described as known from my childhood. My boys like celebrating at home just like me for several reasons: firstly because the party lasts longer than if it takes place out; secondly because almost everything is allowed on that day at home; thirdly, because of the unique home made party cake, which they adore and which is obligatory. Bye the way I like the LE 2009 Calender. I wish success to the whole BBC LE team! Diema

Hey Carrie, I was missing you. The picture of your 4th birthday is lovely. You haven't changed so much :-) Here we play Musical chairs. I don't know the other games, though they sound very entertaining. Here is the same, children are not used to celebrating birthdays at home. They go to Burger King or "Pelotero" (it's a big room you rent for parties or other events and has a big square full of plastic balls -pelotas in Spanish-) Children love to plunge into those balls. Best wishes, Cris

Hi Carrie! I used to play musical chairs when I was child. But I didn´t play this game in birthdays parties. Well, Sandwiches, cheese balls, 'coxinhas'( a fried dough stuffed with chicken meat and shapped like a chicken thigh)and 'empadinhas' ( a baked dough stuffed with chicken meat, palm heart or cheese) are the most common sauvory foods in a party. Apart from the cake, a birthday party must have 'brigadeiros' a chocolate sweet made of condensed milk, butter and chocolate and ´beijinhos' another sweet made of condensed milk, butter and grated coconut. Yummy! Delicious :-). Best wishes, Ana Paula.

Hello Carrie! I would like to express my thanks to the staff, especially to you for having shown such commitment and moderating our comments over Christmas. I am sure Adriana’s gifts will admire everyone who steps into the office. Best wishes,

Hello Carrie! What could be a better start in to a new year than a celebration? So you want to hear about children celebrations? I have just remembered the big one which was prepared by my sister to Peter´s (my nephew)10th birthday ten years ago. To make him feel very important at this date she reserved the meal in a restaurant and invited and payed it for the whole family. He could indulge his day at the head of the table. How it use to be she (in the contrary to other one) never could efford to go on holiday to the sea with her two boys. Your Rangers unit made a good decission. It had to be a lovely event for you too! What for play I may recognise are musical chair and statue, then we played lots on the street the game ´at bo-peep´ or ´hidey hole´, words I´ve found for that in a translator. Now the play I do these days until I feel dead is going round the house and car with a shovel to clean the snow! I am surprise I was able to write in something to the theme. Actually, at first I only wanted to say, after reading the 6th part of Privat lives, how I regret that Ihave never visited London and its galleries. See you around! Marianna

Thank you Anita: I should also have said that when Anita visited us, she brought "goodies" too - we ate the chocolates and drank the wine before Christmas. The other gifts are also in the display cabinet right next to Adriana's!

Hi Carrie. It's really wonderful that the package has arrived safely. I was afraid the gifts could be broken inside the box. By the way,sorry for the mess...I was rushing(as always :-))

Hello Carrie, I should say you are the most prolific staff blogger and it's good to see your new year's entry. Speaking of birthday, well, cake is of course the heart of all birthday parties. Apart from that, the food is made according to the wishes of the birthday girl or boy. It's interesting to learn about the games. Two of them which are played over here too are pass the parcel and musical chairs. Well, sharing a secret that I still love to play musical charis:-). Best wishes, Naheed

Hi Carrie! The picture of your 4th birthday brings back my childhood memories. Whenever we went to friends’ birthday parties my childhood friends were not keen to play games but only the party food. When we were young most family didn’t have much so children felt hungry all the time. So it was a great opportunity to make their tummies full. They used to have eyes bigger than their bellies and gorge the food. Cheers!xx

Hi Carrie! Alas, my birthday falls in June, so I have seldom celebrated it at school. Once in Italy there was a tradition to bring a birthday cake or some pastries when a pupil celebrated his/her birthday. Today, pupils tend to celebrate their birthday at home or at some clubs like pizza restaurants, pubs or youth centres . As for the workers, it depends on the character of the celebrator and the work environment. Bowling is not as widespread as it seems in the UK and as for the pool parties, I have only been to this kind of events once . A schoolmate of mine lived in a farm and he even had a pool. We celebrated the final year of primary school. By the way, last month I got a chance to visit the outskirts of Dublin. When I was in Howth I ate a scoffin with clotted cream. It was tasty!! It occurred to me one of your first posts.LoL I think your clotted cream is more or less like our mascarpone (an Italian cheese). Have a good week!!!

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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