What Norwegian Children’s Birthday Parties Are Like

If you’re moving to Norway with children or end up getting a child after having moved to Norway, then you will eventually end up in a Norwegian children’s birthday party. These are a bit of a unique experience, so you might want to prepare a bit before attending one.

Norwegian children often begin celebrating their birthdays at 4 – 6 years old, and it’s common to invite either the entire class, or just the children of the same gender from the class. This means that most children’s parties do have a lot of children in the same room.

So, let’s take a closer look at what to expect when attending a children’s party in Norway.

The children’s party usually start with chaotic free play where the children run around and play, following by serving of traditional Norwegian hot dogs. After eating hot dogs, cake, jelly and snacks are usually served, followed by the opening of the presents. After the presents are opened, the party continues with either an organized play activity or free play.

Birthday cake
Birthday cake. Photo published with permission.

That’s pretty much the short of it. Children’s birthday parties are often very loud and chaotic just as a result of the sheer amount of children that are in the same room together, and it might often be a bit too chaotic for grown ups to enjoy.

How to prepare for your first children’s birthday party

The thing about Norwegian children’s birthday parties is that they are full of pretty subtle cultural quirks, and foreigners might find it a bit difficult to navigate since you won’t get a lot of information before arriving. Luckily most (if not all) children’s parties are pretty much the same. So, let’s get you prepared for the party.

Go along, or send the child alone?

Firstly, should you come along with the child? The unwritten rule is that you attend the party while the child is still in kindergarten, but just drop them off (but stop by to say hi) after they have begun in primary school.

If you’re in a children’s birthday party for children in kindergarten, come along, sit down and relax. You will likely get served coffee, and might get a few hot dogs and some cake as well.

You might even get an idea by looking at the invitation. Some invitations invites the child + one parent to the birthday party.

Bringing a birthday present

You are expected to bring a birthday present to the child who is celebrating its birthday. Spend around 100 – 200 NOK on a toy, wrap it up and write a birthday card along with it. It’s pretty common to have the children write and draw on the birthday card.

Some children’s parties open the presents just after you arrive, but most save them up for a present opening event a bit later. This will be an event where the birthday kid opens one present at a time in front of everyone.

Food, drinks and snacks at the birthday party

I’m pretty sure that over 90% of all children’s parties that I’ve attended have had hot dogs as the primary food. These are just like any regular wiener hot dogs that is steamed, and the children can choose between lompe and bun, and whatever type of topping they want. If they don’t serve hot dogs, then pizza is usually on the menu.

It is common for the parents to serve the children either saft (juice) or soft drinks like Coca-Cola.

When it comes to snacks, the most common types are fruit and things like that. After food and snacks, it’s time for dessert. It’s most common to have a few types of cakes, and chocolate cake is obviously the most popular choice.

Another favorites that I often see are jelly, popcorn, cupcakes and assorted fruits.

Birthday cake
Birthday cake. Photo published with permission.

Who gets invited to the birthday party?

The birthday child and its parents is expected to invite either:

  1. All the children of the same age group, if in kindergarten.
  2. All the children in the entire classroom if in school.
  3. .. or just half of it; either just the girls or just the boys. Especially for larger classes.

You are expected to invite everyone or no one, and no child should be excluded from attending the birthday party. Take this seriously if you are hosting the birthday party.

This might lead to situations where there are close to 30 children at the party, which is why it tends to be chaotic. But it’s obviously better with a few hours of chaos than having children who are lonely and feel left out.

When is the children’s party?

The time for the children’s birthday party should be on the invitation, and it comes with a clear end time. You should be outside and ready to pick up your children by the time the party is over. And don’t be late! Most kids arrive within a few minutes of the designated start time, so don’t arrive 30 minutes late, or your child will miss out on a lot of stuff.

Some birthday parties are on the weekend, and they are often in the early parts of the day like from 12:00 to 14:00. Others are in the weekdays, and it’s common that they are from 17:00 to 19:00 or 20:00.

Most birthday parties for children are between 2 and 4 hours in total.

The events of the children’s party

Some parties have a lot of organized activities, while others tend to just let the children play as they want to. Many parties are completely outside if the weather is OK, but it’s also common to have it indoor.

It’s not easy to generalize the organized activities, and it can be pretty much anything that the birthday child wants to do. It’s common to have passing of the gifts, and I find it to often be a treasure hunt where the children search for and find small gift bags with some candy in it.

Other than that, any organized type of play is accepted, and it tends to vary a lot by what’s popular with the children in that particular social circle.

Some birthday parties will have a theme, like a dress-up theme, a princess theme or things like that. This will be clearly stated on the invitation if it’s the case.

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