Children’s and adults’ birthday celebrations in the 1950s were always full-blown family events and almost identical in their content for child and adult. There might be five or twenty-five guests. There were no presents, although there were cards. A child’s card might include some dimes or quarters taped to the inside.
Entire families would drop in on the appointed weekday evening or Sunday afternoon for a spread that would include sandwiches, salads, cake, lemonade, ice cream and coffee. This would be done on The Birth Dateof the person being celebrated. If it could not be done on The Birth Date, it wasn’t done. In Logic World (where Prairie People lived) that was not sensible. However, even if we didn’t “have a birthday party” (i.e., no guests to acknowledge the wonder of our presence in the world) we still had (on The Birth Date) the meal of our choice for dinner (if Sunday) or supper (if any other day of the week).
My requested birthday meal was always fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, beans with crumbs on and beet pickles. All of those items were homegrown and one of them was personally cared for, fed, killed, plucked, cleaned and home-butchered as well. Homemade bread, home-churned butter, homemade jam and milk were a part of every meal, so they were a given in the birthday menu as well. There was always a birthday cake with the right number of candles.
Older couples, widows and widowers would have the coffee pot on and be ready for company around the date of their birthday, since The Birth-Date-Only Celebration rule didn’t apply to them. And also, in their case, the guests would bring the sandwiches, the cake, the ice cream and the lemonade. So in this community where most folks didn’t have phones, they would be all dressed up on their birthday with nowhere to go except their living room or kitchen, where they would sit near the window watching the road. To my knowledge, not one of them was ever disappointed or left sitting alone through The Afternoon of Their Birth Date.