It was Chinyoung’s birthday today. She got a rotten potato and a ridiculous drawing of some creature with bamboo skewers shoved through it.
Among other things, she also got a pile full of linoleum shavings, a used bottle of Turpenoid, some chewed gum, and a broken toy from some kids’ meal somewhere.
Then we ate some cupcakes. Welcome to the Anti-Birthday.
This started about three years ago, just as something I wanted to do in order to do some community building in my Thesis class (it’s a small, seniors only class). And boy, did it work. Students absolutely LOVE our birthday parties. The rules:
- No useful gifts allowed. Only meaningless, insignificant, useless crap.
- Wrapping paper needs to be ugly. Newspaper, paper towels, and lots of tape, usually. Toilet paper sometimes.
- Nothing gross. The worst we probably had was someone who saved their fingernail clippings and brought them in a bag as a gift. I think that crossed the line, but the reaction of 15 grossed out kids is pretty fantastic.
- Snacks are the responsibility of the person having the birthday. If they want a snack, they bring it themselves. If they don’t want anything, or don’t want to make a big deal out of it, the rest of the class won’t complain or make a big deal either.
- Cupcakes, if they are the snack, need to be eaten in one bite. IMPORTANT: you can NOT eat the cupcake frosting-first. We won’t go into all the details, but you can choke if you inhale too much frosting. Just put it straight into your mouth, frosting up, and push in whatever doesn’t get in there the first time.
Parties are hilarious. Kids love them–they’re great for morale and community building. They let kids come up with some really creative, really funny gifts; it’s a very different from the usual gifts one might give. Yes, it uses class time–but 15 minutes to make a kid feel special on their birthday, share laughter with their peers, and bring a class closer together is well worth that time.