Birthdays in Egypt

24 Mar


This is a birthday cake for a four year old in Egypt. Needless to say, it’s kind of ridiculous.

A) What four year old likes kiwi, pineapple or loads of fruit?

B) What four year old can fit any of this into their mouth without half of it falling on the ground?

C) What four year old can hold a plate weighed down by this amount of frosting, fruit and general nonsense?

The answer to these questions is: Egyptian children. Sort of. Or at least their parents think so. About once a month, I play host to a birthday party in my KG1 classroom. My kids are turning 4 or 5 and their parents want to make a show out of it.

Now, I had my share of birthday parties at school in the U.S., but that meant bringing a tray of cupcakes that we ate towards the end of the day. Or, my mom would make a Betty Crocker cake or two and bring them in to split up amongst whoever came on the last half day before spring break. (March 15 is one of those “inconvenient”birthday times when all your friends are already on vacation for spring break.) I digress.

But in Egypt, a child’s in-class birthday means the following.

  •  A cake (or two or three) the size of said child celebrating their birthday.
  • A “side dish” of mini pizzas, chipsee (the national and omnipresent chip company here), cheese rolls or bags of candy (bon bons.)
  • A separate cake for the teachers (including me, the assistant, all of the other KG teachers and their assistants, the Arabic, music and PE teacher and Ms. Boni, the overseer of all things KG.)
  • Plates, forks, napkins and a massive knife to cut said cakes.
  • Roman candles (not really, but they bring in candles that do wild tricks and are potentially classified as fireworks in the U.S.)
  • Party favors. These can be any one of the following: a glitter pinata, balloons, pens with balloons on the end, various noisemakers, bubbles, silly spray, fake snow, straight up glitter for kids to throw around, etc. It is all very messy, noisy and probably most of these things are not meant to be handled by people under the age of 10. Much less by three year olds.

Birthday are a major deal in Egypt, but after all the show and pounds of cake brought in, none of it tastes good. These are the kinds of cakes that are of course beautiful, but absolutely disgusting! Too much sugar, too much frosting, too much display chocolate, too many “gold” flecks, too much fruit jelly, too much sugared fruit, too much cream, etc. Just too much.

In the end, I will take my small homemade Betty Crocker cake, topped with a jar of cream cheese frosting and a simple candle instead of the horse and pony show that is an Egyptian child’s in-class birthday party.


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