Birthday parties in the 1960s

Written by cathryn whitehead | 13/05/2017
Birthday parties in the 1960s
Nineteen-sixties birthday parties featured family, friends, homemade food and games. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

The 1960s were known as a time of revolution and change with an emphasis on rock and roll, love, peace, nature and advancements in science. As has always been true, different people had different ideas about having birthday parties. Some had them for their kids every year or on special birthdays, and some just had family gatherings. Food and, decorations were usually homemade. 1960s birthday parties included decorations, games, food and gifts.


Birthday parties in the 1960s often included elements of the decade such as bright, psychedelic colours, symbols and phrases. Yellow smiley faces saying "Have a nice day" and peace signs with graffiti-like rounded lettering proclaiming "love, peace and groovy" were used on invitations, wall decorations and table covers. Beads were featured on items from necklaces to curtains, and love beads or chokers were a popular party favour. Lava lamps, strobe lights and colourful bulbs added to the party atmosphere, and posters with top music artists of the time including the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Doors and Elvis Presley were a hit at birthday parties for teens.


A variety of games were played at 1960s birthday parties. Young children enjoyed Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Drop the Clothespin in the Bottle, Simon Says and relay races. Older children played charades or Twister and had scavenger hunts. Teenagers danced famous 1960s dances such as the Twist, the Swim, the Pony and the Mashed Potato.


Typical birthday party food in the 1960s was homemade. Mothers cooked indoors while fathers manned outdoor grills. Though vegetarian fare emerged during the hippie era, most families had meat at birthday parties. Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers on toasted buns were served with potato salad, corn on the cob with lots of butter and fruit salad. Sandwiches were made from bologna, egg salad or tuna and were accompanied by Fritos, Jell-O and Kool-Aid. Round, layered birthday cakes made from scratch or pineapple upside-down cake were decorated with homemade frosting and colourful candles.


Most guests brought gifts wrapped in colourful paper topped with a birthday card and bow. Gifts for little girls in the 1960s included paper dolls, baby dolls such as Chatty Cathy, fashion dolls such as Barbie and miniature dolls with accessories such as Little Kiddles or Dolly Darlings. Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins were popular book choices. Boys preferred model cars, Hardy Boys books, toy guns, dart boards, marbles, balls and Silly Putty. Good 1960s gifts for both boys and girls included the Slinky, Spirograph, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, board games such as Monopoly and Magic 8-Balls.

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