Birthdays here on the coast are often a really big deal. When the birthday girl is also about move halfway across the country for at least a year, that celebration really grows. Today (I write this Monday) is one of my host sisters’ birthdays. She turns 21; since everyone has all adult privileges here at 18 that doesn’t mean anything like it does in the States. Nonetheless, there was a big bash at my house on Saturday night!
My host mom is a genius with craft foam and made tons of amazing decorations. She and her sister also spent all day cooking up delicious potato salad and soup to serve the guests. Someone brought over a ton of plastic chairs from her dad’s house, and most of the living room furniture was cleared to the back patio. As guests arrived, a circle started forming in the street in front of the house. A few moto drivers were kind of angry they couldn’t get through, but people are also pretty accustomed to roads being blocked for parties, so they dealt with it.
The stereo inside was bumping salsa and vallenato all night. My host mom and my younger host sister did great jobs as hostesses, bringing each new guest a cup of soda, offering chips in rounds, and then bringing out the potato salad and soup. For me, one of the hardest things about birthday parties here is that they really get rocking really late! We ate soup at 11:30!
Another custom is passing around mini-shots throughout the night. The picture shown here is actually from a party I went to in January, because I was amused that my friend was passing out shots with his daughter’s puppy purse on his arm. Then we were drinking Grand Old Parr whiskey; at the party Saturday night it was aguardiente (an anise-flavored liquor made in Medellín). The shots really started flowing around 1 – right before I gave up and went in to my bed. As a testament to how late the parties here run, I woke up to pee at 5:30 and the stereo was booming and the remaining people were finishing their last round of beer; I think they all finally went to bed at 6 or 6:30!
Another important part of parties here is the picture proof. There’s no shame here in crafting the perfect selfie, and so there’s definitely no shame in taking 4 pictures with each of your partying friends! The picture in this set that makes me laugh is the one of my host dad and I that we took the next day (while drinking away the hangover). It was neither of our birthdays, yet we’re posing with this frame.
I went to bed before the dancing really got going, but dancing is another big thing at parties here. I will write a whole other post on dancing here, but just know that while I love to dance, they don’t dance the way I dance! That’s partly why I get so tired and always turn in early – the parties for me end up not being very active, and the sitting around makes me sleepy.
Finally, an important part of costeño birthday parties is the vallenato jam of the birthday song. Basically the lyrics say “May God bless you and grant you many more birthdays.”
When my birthday comes around, we’ve joked that I’ll have to have a big one because it will be my double-quinceañera (30 years!)…but a lot of time and money goes into this kind of birthday, and if you know me, you know that I don’t really need that. I love the decorations and the music, but will probably go easier on the food and maybe bring some American-style game-playing to the party. We’ll see! That’s still a long ways away.