French kids’ birthday parties are the best

After being here almost a year, our kids have been invited to quite a few birthday parties. What I like about them best is that they are very inclusive and often co-ed, where the entire class (or entire school in one case) is invited.

The children, rather than the parents, are the hosts. They stand at the entrance and say “Cou cou, ça va?” (hi, how are you?) to each guest as they arrive, and kiss them on both cheeks, boy or girl.

Invitations are very informal (usually a text message, a What’s App group, or a photocopied piece of paper) and are sent last minute – even a few days prior. Parties can be ultra-luxe (like Emmanuelle’s friend Deva, whose parents – the actors Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci – rented out a night club in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Or they can be very informal, such as Charlotte’s 8th birthday party which we held in Parc Monceau after school. We served homemade chocolate tart instead of cake (at her request) and blew bubbles.

There is usually no meal at birthday parties (just candy and cakes) but there is a children’s version of Champagne here, called Champomy, which comes in a red, white and blue Champagne-style bottle that they drink on special occasions. We always keep one in the fridge, just in case.

Often there are games. At one party the birthday girl sat in a chair while each guest came up behind her and said “Bonne Fête Brontë!”  (Happy Birthday Brontë!) in a disguised voice. Only if she correctly guessed who the person was could she open their present. How fun is that?

A birthday party at a bowling alley under the Arc de Triomphe ended like a wedding, with a receiving line. The two 12-year-old boys who were hosting it double kissed each guest in turn and thanked them for their present. If only adult parties were so civilized we might get out more.