When I was a kid, birthday parties were the norm. Kids were either bundled into living rooms or community centre halls for a couple of sugar-fuelled hours of Musical Chairs, Pass the Parcel, Pin the Tail on the Donkey madness while parents stood on the side-lines waiting to scoop up the party bags and jelly covered kids when the alloted time was up. I didn’t of course expect birthday parties here to be the same, but the differences have taken me aback.
The first difference really is the divide on who does and who doesn’t have a party. As always, our ambiguous life leaves us somewhere in the middle; my friends don’t have parties for children, G’s friends do. Many ofmine don’t coming at it from the religious stance that we shouldn’t dedicate a day of celebration to anything or anyone outside Islam – the same reason the secular New Year isn’t celebrated either. We’ve bounded the question back and forth between us for months – should we, shouldn’t we? And we’ve decided we will for a number of reasons: In Turkey we celebrate – would remember be a better word perhaps? – the birth of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), so from this we draw that the concept of recognising birthdays isn’t haram; G’s friends are the people we socialise with (I wonder if I’ll ever see them as ‘ours’ rather than his? inshAllah). we take our son to their children’s parties, to deny him his own would be cruel; and lastly, selfishly, I really want to have a party for my son, want to celebrate and share the day that brought such light into our world and in my heart I don’t see anything wrong in that.
But, we want to find middle ground between it all. It is anti everything we believe to shower M in gifts. Is it against our religion to be gluttonous and it is against my principles to try and out-do the rest. M’s party won’t be British with a sugar fest of junk food and soda, nor will it be Turkish with an entertainer occupying the kids while parents enjoy a separate party upstairs – even if we had an upstairs to escape to.
We want his party to be simple and fun. I want to make the bunting and part hats, ice the cake and chop the salad. We want his present to be one he can treasure, and remember, because he’s so little as yet. I want to blow up balloons and put glitter everywhere – I want his home to be just for him on that day complete with homemade flaws and fruity kebabs. Since M was born I’ve wanted to create a memory of this day, a memory filled with preparation hours and double-cake baking days. My efforts may will seem immature in the handmade bunting and icing, but I really don’t mind that. When the party’s all done and we’re packing away, I’m going to save a triangle of that bunting and a crumpled party hat and fold them into M’s treasure box, our birthday present from us to him. Someday when he’s older and he opens that box he’ll no doubt laugh at the bunting there too, but he’ll know too how much I loved doing that all for him.