by Minh Thu
When I recently attended a first month birthday party for my friend's son, I felt as if I had entered a wedding venue due to the imposing appearance of the house.
The house's gate was decorated with hundreds of white and blue balloons, which looked like clouds in the sky. The path leading to the living room was also decorated with balloons, celebration banners and flowers.
The living room, where the party was taking place, was filled with decorative objects, photos of the baby, pronouncements of how lovely he is, and a large backdrop announcing the reason behind the party. Other decorations, such as, confetti and wall decals had helped render the room colourful and impressive.
Guests included the family, relatives - both from the paternal and maternal side - colleagues and friends. The scale of the party might have given guests the impression that they were attending a wedding.
It has become common for parents to organise a big party to celebrate the full-month celebration and birthday of a child in Viet Nam these days. The reasons behind it might be a better living standard and prosperity, which allows parents to spend a considerable amount organising parties for their children.
As a result, many companies, catering to demand for organising such events have sprung up. Bich Phuong from Ha Noi, said she had hired a company to arrange a birthday party for her two-year-old son at a restaurant, which had cost VND15 million (US$750).
"It's equivalent to nearly a month's salary of my husband and I," she said.
"It's expensive and costly, indeed."
"It's only once a year, so I think it's acceptable," she said.
Phuong also praised the company that had organised the event professionally. The party was decorated beautifully and all the guests were given small gifts at the end of the party, she said, adding that her son had a memorable party and was satisfied.
Vu Anh Tho, who works for a company specialising in organising children's parties, said demand for the service had developed in HCM City five to six years ago and in Ha Noi around two years back.
"The price (for such parties) ranges from millions of dong to hundreds of millions dong, and it depends on the service selected," she said.
"Parents can opt for our services for decorating a party or order an all-in package that includes decoration, food, gifts and entertainment services during the party."
Tho said in some instances, popular comedians and singers are also hired to perform at the party, which can cost a lot.
"Each family has one or two children. So many parents don't regret spending money to satisfy their children."
"Our customers are businessmen and officers, who are well-to-do," she said.
Vu Thi Thu Hang, a teacher in HCM City and author of some books on educating children, said she does not advocate parents organising such big birthday parties for their children, no matter how rich they are.
"The fact is that many parents who are well-to-do tend to spend a large amount of money on organising expensive birthday celebrations for their children," she said.
"They think they're doing something good for the kids, but actually they might not understand what should be done for them."
"From a young age, most children are not aware of the value of an expensive toy or a luxurious party."
"A child cannot differentiate between the value of an electric toy car worth VND2 million ($100) and a carton box. The carton box may make him feel happier, especially when he can sit inside it and his parents push to and fro."
Hang also pointed out that younger children might also feel intimidated in front of crowds. They may feel lonely at their own party because they don't know all of their parents' guests. They also do not understand parents' love and what is reserved for them on that day.
She also wondered if these parents actually understood their children really well and if they knew whether their children felt comfortable at a party or not.
Hang suggested that instead of holding luxurious parties with numerous guests, parents should spend more time with their children, and invite only the children's closest friends. The party is also an occasion for children to play with and receive gifts from their friends, knowing that today they are playing the host of the function.
As an example, Hang spoke about how she is preparing a birthday party for her five-year-old son. She said she was helping him write or draw the invitations, which he would then send to several of his close friends. At the party, his friends are expected to gather at their house and play together while the parents cook something for them.
Nguyen Thu Ha, who works for a bank in Ha Noi, wanted to organise an impressive birthday party for her daughter, but was unsure about wasting so much money.
"Apart from the birthday, I have to spend money on buying diapers, milk, clothes and toys for my girl," she said.
"While the birthday party will take place only once a year, her demand for these items keeps cropping up throughout the year. So I think spending money on her practical needs is better than spending it on a frivolous party."
Ha ended up organising the part herself by visiting the websites of the party-organising companies to get some ideas. She also consulted the available samples for party decorations and did everything by herself.
She printed out her daughter's photos, which she had taken during the year, and used them to decorate with flowers and balloons. In the end, her one-year-old daughter had a beautiful party that cost a fraction of the charges incurred if she had hired a company to organise it.
All parents love their children and want to do the best for them. They have different ways of expressing their love for the kids. However, a big birthday party seems to be more meaningful for the parents rather than the children, who are too young to even understand the process.
A lesson about appreciating the value of money and spending money intelligently might be a good gift that parents can give their children for their birthday. — VNS