Birthday party Ghana style

Yesterday was the children’s cousin’s first birthday.  Great excitement.  An invitation was received the day before and zero hour of 11.30 the following day couldn’t come too soon.

They had a great time, mostly spent eating treat after treat that we don’t often have/get here; cucumber sandwiches, flapjacks, pink marshmallow rice crispie cakes, jelly, homemade strawberry and banana ice-cream and banana and chocolate cake (thankfully the last one was later on for tea).  No games at this party but I doubt they could have moved after all they ate!

A pretty typical (western) kid’s party! Fun!


What it both did and didn’t remind me of though was another birthday party not so long ago that I’m not sure I have recounted.

Jacob, our mechanic, invited the kids to his daughter’s 10th birthday party.  Now we’d never been to a Ghanaian birthday party and to be honest just expected it to be what we would class as a ‘normal’ party, but then what is normal?

On arrival we could see the set up was very much laid out like a council/townhall meeting or school debate (without the platform).  The birthday girl was sitting at a table, with a couple of chosen friends, facing her guests who were all seated in rows facing her.

When we arrived, in Ghanaian style a little late, they had already got into the swing of things, in English style on time.  It looked as though a woman at the front had taken on the role of officiator. The audience, we shall call them, were asked to ‘perform’ something for the birthday girl.  My memory may be a little hazy here but it seemed to involve the officiator picking up a piece of paper and reading out what was on it and the person who wrote it had to stand up, come to the front and do what they put on the paper.  I assume they may have been asked to write something down before we had arrived.

We soon saw that there was theme going on.  We had a rendition of ‘The Lord is my shepherd’, the Ghanaian national anthem and various other biblical quotes and school anthems.  If the child got it wrong the adults seemed to delight in their mistakes in front of everyone, but this is not unusual in Ghanaian society.

As much as they look out and care for children they also like to make fun of them and laugh at their misfortune.  I’ve even seen them trying to get my kids to do something they will fail, trip, or hurt themselves at in order to be amused by it.  Not nice and no way to build a child’s self esteem.

Anyway on we went into games.  They played musical chairs.  Only a few kids were ‘chosen’ to play, the rest had to sit in their rows and watch.  It was ok, but again if a child fell or got upset at being out it caused great hilarity to the adults.  I think the most disturbing thing they did was a dance competition.  Little girls and boys dancing incredibly suggestively, copying their adult role models, again all in front of an audience.  The audience then had to shout their approval (or not) to each contestant.  They got very passionate about this with a loud shout of ‘no’ or ‘yes’ for those being judged.  Awful for those they didn’t think were good.  This would all be fine if it was x-factor but these kids were anything from six upwards.

Finally food and the cutting of the cake.  We each got a little plastic bag of food (pie, biscuit, drink) which was great actually as you could just eat it there and then or take it home.  My kids’ style was to tuck in there and then, Ghanaian style is to keep it for later.

Oh, one last thing before cutting the cake.  There is a tradition here (or at least we’ve seen it at other celebrations) where they have the ‘corking of the champagne’, which basically means shaking a bottle (usually of some psychedelic blue fizz) as hard as possible, removing the cork and spraying it around.  This duly done, everyone was gathered around for the Lords prayer and a prayer of thanks by Jacob after which the cake was cut.  And yes, we did sing happy birthday at the end followed by the next verse of ‘how old are you now?’ which in turn is followed by a solo from the birthday girl/boy of ‘I’m xx years old now’, with a final altogether of ‘may God bless you now!’  It takes a while!

Try that one at your next party!

On that note we’d all like to wish the littlest ‘Bond’ a very happy 1st Birthday and an exciting year to come and thank you for such a great party!  We’re so pleased to have shared it with you.

And Finally:

Today we have mostly been washing up…..

Ochina! x


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