This past week, I threw my first Peruvian birthday party. It was… crazy! And fun, all at the same time. So, here’s a little into what it was like planning, shopping for, and throwing a birthday bash here in Peru. Just a little background – there are 3 events in a Peruvian woman’s life that are very important: her 15th birthday, her wedding day, and her 1st birthday! So, we had a lot to live up to. Here’s what I did over the last few weeks and months:

The first thing to do was pick the theme. As soon as we found out I was carrying a girl, we chose the name Elena. Somehow, her name became “Elenabug” while I was pregnant and has stuck since. She’s been our little ladybug since being in the womb! So, it was easy to pick the theme for her first birthday: Ladybugs! Theme: Check.

Once the theme was picked, I needed to figure out invitations. I asked my good friend, Elsa, to help me with the party (her family is very, very close to ours and she and her husband are like aunt and uncle to Elena). She sent me a picture of an invitation idea and Brian helped me get the pattern and we adjusted it a little and this is what we came up with in the end:

It reads: “You are invited to celebrate the 1st birthday of our little ladybug, Elena Ruth, the 30th of September, at 5pm.” Invitation: Check.

{Of course, after picking the theme, there was a cultural issue we had to deal with: “mariquita” is a word in Spanish used for… of all things… homosexual men. grr. Naturally. Something cute, sweet, and innocent has been turned into something ugly. So, I had to make sure it was very clear what I was talking about and that it was a cute little ladybug and not a, well, the other thing. sigh.} 

The invitations handed out, I moved onto picking out games and the program. The program could be very simple – games and songs – or very elaborate – skits, choreographies, special music, competitions, etc. I opted for simple. However, I am awful [repeat: AWFUL] at coming up with games! I found one: Pin the Spot on the Ladybug. Other than that, I had no clue. Enter Elsa. My hero. Within a few hours, she had the other two games and within a day, she had everything made for them, too. *phew!* Games: Check.

Elsa was also very good at coming up with songs. At least at a Christian party, Peruvians do singing – songs with lots of motions – at parties. I wasn’t sure which ones to do, so Elsa helped me come up with a few. Songs: Check.

Moving onto food! I really wanted to do something different. Peruvians don’t eat a lot of brownies and here, the two of us that are Americans have gotten a little bit of a reputation for making wonderful brownies. 🙂 For me, they’re WAY easier than cake, especially if you need large quantities. So, I thought it would be fun to do batches of brownies instead of cake and then have one cake – for us as a family – and use it as a decoration at the party [and eat it at home later]. In the end I made: 4 batches of brownies, 5 dozen cookies, and 1 ladybug cake.

1 of the batches of brownies

5 dozen sugar cookies...

ladybug cake

In order to make the cake, I thought I would use my springform pan with the heart mold. I thought it would work to put the heart in the middle, but to make the body, I would fill in the spots around it. I sprayed all around both molds – really, really well – and then baked it. Phew~ it worked! The heart pulled out of the center just fine and it looked really cute! The head was a single cupcake – I used a cupcake mold from a friend (she has a bunch of individual molds, like ramekins – very cool). I thought it looked great, but Brian was afraid it was backwards – like the body should be inside the wings, not the other way around. I was afraid of cutting it and trying to move it around on the pan, so I just left it and thought I’d fix it when I frosted it. A friend helped me make bright red frosting and then Brian helped me decorate and voila, here’s the final result:

We used twist ties for the antennae and then Brian found a couple… get this… TUMS for the eyes and drew on them with marker. 🙂 Awesome, right?? And, as you can see, chocolate chips for the spots and to define the wings. I ended up not being able to define the wings from the body with the frosting, so I definitely didn’t need to have baked all around the edges, but oh well. I used green felt and a green plastic bag for the “grass” and there ya go! Cake: Check.

The rest of the food was store-bought: cheese puffs, animal crackers, lollipops, chocolate covered raisins, candy, taffy, soda, and Peruvian sweet won-tons. Food: Check.

Next came decorations. My idea of decorations? A few balloons. Some streamers. Done. heh. Not here! We did get balloons and streamers, but Elsa also took a red tablecloth and added a myriad of black dots, found a “Feliz Cumpleanos” sign and cut out “Elena” to go underneath it, and made a bunch more little ladybugs. Actually, looking back, it was probably the least “decorated” party I’ve been to in awhile! I thought it looked absolutely perfect, though. Decorations: Check.

A Peruvian birthday party is not a birthday party without a pinata, of course! However, all the pinatas we could find (at the “pinateria” – pinata/party store) were covered in cartoons characters! I didn’t want that. I wanted a simple, colorful pinata (maybe with a few bugs??). Not gonna happen. We ended up buying a wedding pinata:

Brian made a bunch of ladybugs to cover up the wine glasses and there, pinata: Check. Decorations: Check.

I then needed to recruit a few helpers for the actual party. Elsa helped me ask and we ended up with Cristofer for games, Eva and Becky to help pass out food, Becky and Jeremy to do video, and Robert to take pictures. Helpers: Check. 

I had a few ideas for the actual program and the day of, I sat down with Elsa and we went through and make the schedule for the evening. It went like this:

  • Kids enter and get their faces painted per team we put them in: bumblebees, ladybugs, or butterflies.
  • Welcome/Prayer
  • Song – “Alelu, Alelu”
  • Game: blindfolded kids find “bugs” (candy) scattered across the floor.
  • Snack: Cheese puffs
  • Photos
  • Game: “Pin the Spot on the Ladybug”
  • Song: “B-I-N-G-O”
  • Drinks/Snacks
  • Game: finding insects hidden around the room and taping them on a leaf for their team
  • Song: “A, E, O”
  • Pinata
  • “Happy Birthday”
  • Open presents
  • “Thank you” words from Brian and myself
  • Brownies and goodbye/gift bags to kids
Schedule: Check.

I was given a dress for Elena a couple months ago and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was meant for her party. Then, a friend made her a bow and it was just perfect for her birthday! Outfit: Check.

All that was left was the party itself! Here’s a few more pictures from the party:

getting their faces painted

1st game - finding "bugs" on the floor

game #2 - pin the spot on the ladybug

game #3 - finding insects hidden around the room

all the missionary kids who came (missing just a few)

hitting the pinata

part of the crowd singing "Happy Birthday"

opening presents

my favorite picture of the whole party - best smile ever

No, this was not a party I would’ve normally thrown, but in the end, I’m glad we took the time, effort, energy, and money to do so. It went well; everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Even my husband – the a-social maintenance man – enjoyed it. It was nice having so many help celebrate with us, especially since none of our family could be here. Hope you enjoyed this little Peruvian Party 101! 🙂