Children's birthday party etiquette in Germany

7 Feb 2014

LJ turned 4 a couple of weeks ago and we organised her and our first children birthday party for the occasion. It was our first German birthday party too. Having been invited to only two so far, we were not quite sure about how it works here. So we enlisted a few friends' help and hope we did her proud. 11 4-year-olds came and left happy and excited, so we must have been doing it right.
Here are a few observations I thought I'd share about organising a children's birthday party in Germany. Some of these things may not be typically German but others definitely are.

- Wording invitation

The invitations' text remain quite formal. None of the themed text to go with your party's theme. Plain and simple is the key while mentioning all of the important aspects of the party: drop-off and pick-up time, gifts arrangements, address, RSVP date, etc. Almost all of the ones I have seen start with "Liebe(r) X", meaning Dear X. Most are written like a little letter. I, personally found that a little boring, so tried to include a few variations. But most German mums I spoke to told me to stick to the traditional format.

- Parents stay before 4 years old

If your child is turning 4 or more, then parents are usually not invited to stay at the birthday party unless specifically mentioned on the invitation. Below 4, parents usually stay. Parents drop off the kids and pick them up at an arranged time. In between it is up to the host to keep all of the children entertained. I am not sure if I would prefer to have the parent there or not. To be fair, entertaining the parents too may be a lot of extra work. As a lot of our little guests were Franco-Germans (since LJ goes to a bilingual kindergarten), a lot of French mums actually asked if we needed help. Germans did not. They took it for granted we were only having the kids.

- Gift list

A lot of German kids will have a gift list set up somewhere. This is quite practical is you want to build a collection of something like Lego or similar. If no list is mentioned on the invitation, most German parents will ask what your child wants. I was not prepared for this. Most French mums did not ask!

- Add a personal touch to the gift

one gift LJ received had a home-made CD attached to it with songs

The very nice thing about the German-style gifts though is the fact that they always make it personal. Even if they have just brought you a box of Lego, they will always attach to it a little personal touch, like a balloon, a packet of sweets, a little note or similar. This is not just true for birthdays, they do this for weddings too and it is really lovely. Cards are not really big here, but I like this option.

- Arrive on time

As for everything, Germans are punctual. Children or not children, all of the 11 children (but 1) arrived at 2.30pm on the dot. They almost all arrived at the same time actually, making welcomes more easily.

 - End time

Invitations must specify an end time. This is often the case for most events too. I found that a little surprising at first. But it is actually quite helpful for such a birthday party. Again, all parents are very punctual and about 15 minutes after the said end time, the house was empty. German efficiency! You got to love it sometimes!

Here a few other posts some fellow bloggers shared about birthday parties where they live:

A multicultural scavenger hunt in France
The Dutch birthday circle & Breaking the Dutch birthday circle
Throwing a Brazilian birthday party
On the 7th birthday milestone in the Philipines 
Birthday traditions around the world
A linky with tons of birthday ideas and stories around the world and in different languages

What about where you are? Is it the same? What differs? Do parents stay with the children?


  1. I really enjoyed your post and, funnily enough, the rules (well, minus the end time) would apply for grown up parties as well :) I particularly enjoy the way Germans approach gift giving for such events. For our wedding a lot of people gave money but I could have never imagined how creatively it can be wrapped!

    1. Oh, I know... the Germans are so good at finding creative ways to give money at weddings... I have experienced that too.
      I have also been to grown-up parties with end times!!

    2. The money, yes! My sister got married in Germany. Money was folded, origami-style, so many neat ways, and arranged to make some incredible designs. My favorite were the bills folded to look like Hawaiian shirts and hanging on a little clothes line, to save for their honeymoon in Hawaii!

  2. Germans have gift lists for kid's birthday parties?! I'm speechless...

    1. Oh yes.... my reaction was the same as yours though...

  3. An interesting read. Everything about this is practically the polar opposite of a kids' party in Brazil.

  4. I would love, love to have a German party! Sounds just like my cup of tea! LOLOL You've inspired me to write a post on how birthdays are celebrated in Puerto Rico. A far cry from what Germans do.

  5. I just loved your Blog.This one was very informational on birthday etiquette! Thanks :)


  6. Thank you!!
    I was feeling lost.

  7. So interesting. It is exactly the same in Canada. Except for perhaps making the present personal. There is usually a card that goes with it and mostly it is handmade.


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