German birthday parties are both the same and different than American parties. I have yet to see a Chuck-E-Cheese in Germany, for instance, and (usually) the goal in Germany is not to see if you can outspend the other families in your circle, but how creative you can be in developing the party theme. People put a lot of emphasis on "Häuslichkeit" and "Gemütlichkeit" (domesticity and being comfortable - like nesting), something that the US is coming back to, now that we have the decade of excess behind us.
Children's parties in Germany are a lot like American birthday parties and usually:
- Have a start and end time.
- Have indoor and outdoor games planned.
- The opening of the presents takes place in front of the guests.
- Food is served, with emphasis on treats such as chicken fingers, hot dogs, chocolate milk, candy, pudding, and cake.
- Trink Kakao (Chocolate milk) - Self-explanatory, cold or hot.
- Eisschokolade (Chocolate Floats) - A chocolate milk float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Kinderbowle (Kids' Punch) - Germans love their punch bowls and usually serve punch with little picks to eat the fruit that is always in the bottom. Recipe: Mix (grape) juice with sparkling water. Add cocktail fruit and pitted cherries or maraschino cherries.
- Zauberbowle (Magic Punch) - Freeze gummibaeren (gummy bears) in ice cube trays filled with fruit juice. Mix juice and sparkling water, fruit bits in the bottom (of course) and add ice cubes to the children's glasses of punch. When they melt, the gummibaeren magically appear.
- Schlammbowle (Mucky Punch) - Pineapple, peach, and mandarin orange bits in the bottom of a punch bowl filled with orange juice, sparkling water and one quart of vanilla ice cream.
- Apfelsaftschorle (Sparkling Apple Juice) - Equal measures of apple juice and sparkling water. Very refreshing for kids and adults with only half the calories of juice!
Trying to get anything other than sugar into children during a party requires some deft planning and creativity. Here are some ideas straight from a German mother.
- Spaghettinester (Spaghetti Nests) - Mix cooked spaghetti with an egg, grated parmesan, and some cream. Add freshly grated nutmeg and pepper and form into "nests" on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place some tomato sauce (purchased or homemade) in the middle and top with small pieces of deli ham. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 350°F, or until the "nests" are set.
- Würstchen im Schlafrock (Pigs in a Blanket) - Wrap hot dogs, frankfurters or other small diameter sausages in refrigerated biscuit dough. Bake until biscuits are brown.
- Fliegenpilze (Toadstools) - Per serving you need one hard-boiled egg, half a tomato, and a little mayonnaise. Peel the egg and cut the wide bottom flat, so that it stands on a plate on its own. Cut a tomato in half and hollow it out. Set it on top of the egg (mushroom cap), then dot the tomato with mayonnaise for the spots. You can set this on a bed of sprouts if you wish.
- Mini-Pizzas - A mixture of cubed salami or pepperoni, ham, grated cheese, mushroom bits (if the kids will eat them), roasted red peppers, a little cream (this is a German recipe, remember) spread on a baguette and toasted or broiled. I would suggest cheese, pineapple bits, drained tomato pieces and ham with some cream for a Pizza Hawaii.
- Schokoladenpizza - Chocolate and Fruit Pizza - Cut down on the sugar by using a box of pizza dough instead of cookie dough (which is what Americans would use). Top the baked pizza dough with Nutella or other chocolate spread and mixed fruit.
- Party-Spiesse - (Fruit Kabobs) - Thread fruit chunks on bamboo skewers or toothpicks. Stick one end in a half a melon.
- Ein Haufen Dreck (A Pile of Dirt) - Chocolate pudding mixed with vanilla wafer crumbs or graham crackers (Germans use the Leibniz Kekse) and gummy worms.
- Wackelpudding (gelatin dessert) - You can also mix gummy worms into flavored gelatin before it sets up. Use a yellow-colored gelatin dessert for the best visual effect.
- Schokoküβchenkuchen (Chocolate Kiss Cake) - If you have never been to Germany, this needs some explanation. Schokoküβchen, also known as Dickmanns (the brand), or Schaumküsse , are pillows of airy, white cream (foam) set on top of wafers and covered with a thin coat of chocolate (see and order them here). They are very popular with children and adults, who may only eat them secretly. Crush and mix a box full of these foam kisses (remove wafer bottom first) with one cup of yogurt cheese or Greek yogurt. Beat one cup of whipping cream until stiff and fold into yogurt-kiss mixture together with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Using a purchased fruit torte base (often available in US supermarkets), spread the yogurt/kiss/whipped cream mixture on top. Decorate with M&Ms, red hots or any other candy, and the waffle bottoms. Chill for one hour and serve fresh.
Birthday Games - Outdoors
- Waldralley (forest rally) - City parks in Germany are often called the city forest and meander in and around neighborhoods. It's a good bet that your German apartment or house is within walking distance of one of these parks, which makes it perfect for preparing and conducting a "Waldralley" where teams look to fill their list fastest. Lists can be natural, woodsy things such as "5 beautiful leaves", "5 different leaves", "red colored pebble", "bird feather", or planted things like leaving clues to where to find wrapped candy or prizes.
- Schnitzeljagd (Treasure or Scavenger Hunt) - Follow clues from one station to the next, ending at a cool destination with prizes, ice cream or another treat.
Birthday Games - Indoor/Outdoor
- Gummitwist (very old game) (Chinese Jump Rope) - Two children form a rectangle around their legs with an elastic loop. A third child does a hopping sequence in and out of the elastic, which the rest of the children have to remember and copy. It might be good to limit the number of moves at first.
- Schlangenschwanz (Snake's Tail) - The children form a line and hold on to each other's waist. The first child in line tries to catch the last child in line (the snake chasing its tail).
- Traditional - "Viel Glück und viel Segen" (We Wish You Luck and Good Wishes on All of Your Paths).
- "Zum Geburtstag Viel Glück", sung to "Happy Birthday to You".
- "Wie Schön, dass Du Geboren Bist" (It's So Nice That You Were Born).
What to Say on Birthdays
- "Herzlichen Glückwünsch zum Geburtstag" - Happy birthday to you.
- "Alles Gute zum Geburtstag" - Best wishes for your birthday.
- "Danke für die Einladung" - Thank you for the invitation.
- "Ich gratuliere zum Geburtstag!" - Congratulations on your birthday!
- More sayings in German