Interspersed with journal-style ramblings, I have decided to start an ongoing series on my life here in the Dominican Republic beginning with one of the most bizarre events to take place: a child’s birthday party.
My children are enrolled in a Montessori preschool here. I live basically on a middle class level and it is a sacrifice to send them there and the other families are much better off financially. Combine the economic disparity with a cultural one: what signifies a birthday party for a young child? In the States it is simplier: a cake, a bunch of party favors and a bunch of kids. Here, however, a birthday party for a child, even a very young one, is a big production and is taken very seriously.
Case in point, the party we attended tonight for the 4th birthday of classmate of my son Marcos. the party was held at a fancy restaurant on the Malecon (the road that runs by the water) and it’s theme was Disney princesses.
Dominican birthday party requirements:
- location is key or the best families won’t come and the gifts won’t be good
- entertainment : dj and clown are standard
- gift bags separated by gender
- prizes for winners of party games
- bakery cake in theme colors
So we were told that for this party the children had to be in costume from a Disney movie. I was in luck because about 2 months earlier Marcos had asked for a pirate costume and I made one for him — Peter Pan had Captain Hook and lest we forget Pirates of the Caribbean. All set.
I actually dreaded going to the party. All I do is sit through it all for hours, barely talking to anyone, but I went because I knew how much fun Marcos would have. So this time I decided to attend Dominican style. the party started at 4 according to the invitation so at 3:30 we leave to buy the present, get it wrapped, run another errand and arrive respectfully an hour late. Hardly anyone was there.
The place was an explosion of pink, yellow and lavender. Balloons, tiaras and sparkling scepters were everywhere. In the center was a large box where the presents were to go. Ours was a small one at the bottom. By the time we left the box was overflowing.
One by one the princesses arrived. the ‘entertainment’ consisted of a dj and two young women in tiaras and pastel dresses with sparkles singing songs from popular kids shows. at least there was no clown this time…
All in all the party probably cost over US $2000 and the birthday girl just turned 4. Craziness!
Marcos turns 5 in january and I’m worried. He could care less but it is the expectations, the fanfare and of course the cost. Time to really get creative…