For all the Throwback Thursdays I missed

Ever wondered who actually came up with this concept? – Throwback Thursdays… Well I have, and apparently it was someone who loved basketball footwear.

This past weekend we celebrated my birthday.

Small step over 30, big step into adulthood. supposedly. I think it’s more of  a “I can start counting to next tenth again” feeling than a noticeable change.  

When I was little, mom couldn’t really throw big, pompous parties. As a single mother, there was never enough dough to dish out on talk-of-the-neighbourhood parties, but we always did something! I would have 2-3 of my closest friends come over and celebrate with finger foods and lots of cake! Mom always baked delicious cakes.

Over the years, I was invited to different birthday parties, and I liked going. Mind you, I didn’t always have fun because of my shyness around strangers (other little kids), but everything would get better when we started singing the Happy Birthday song because….cake!


Unfortunately, because I couldn’t always return “the favour” and invite kids to my birthday party, I got cut off quite quickly. Mom would tell me not to mention when my birthday was, so kids didn’t feel upset for not being invited, but then she would send me to school with a box of chocolates to share around…for my birthday! It’s traditional back home to give out cookies and chocolates to the classmates and teachers. The home room teacher would get everyone to sing Happy Birthday and you got to feel extra special for the whole day.

11119816_nThen the kids would ask what are you doing for your birthday and when’s the party. It was very common for the birthday person to have a get together – for kids it was at the house with food and soft drinks;  for adults it was either at the house or at a restaurant and the birthday person picked up the bill! what?  Ya, back home, there isn’t such a concept of “let me take you out for your birthday, on me”; it’s all about “let’s all go out for drinks for MY birthday, on me!” And therefore, EVERYONE would go if invited.

Took me a while to understand the North American concept of going out for a birthday get together and have to pay for myself AND share the bill for the celebrated (!?)


Back in Romania, age fourteen is just as celebratory as sweet sixteen in North America. That is when you get your official ID card and that’s also when you are considered a ‘responsible’ teenager. Fourteen is also the age one graduates from elementary school and moves into the bigger waters of high school. Ya, bigger waters, because swim or sink is really what you are expected to do! I celebrated my fourteenth birthday accordingly, with 6 or 7 of my closest friends. We played card games and board games well into the night – all activities that we would do pretty much every weekend. But this time was more special because, you know….cake!

I remember this birthday day so well because it was the last ‘big one’ I celebrated in Romania.

My seventeenth birthday was another memorable one. It was the first birthday I celebrated in Canada.

Charlie's Angels had nothing on us!

Charlie’s Angels had nothing on us! My sister (in the corner) was 3yrs old

My family over here celebrates birthdays as if we were still back home – the celebrated person picks up the tab. It’s all happening to confuse the next generation!

For years, every birthday was celebrated at Mandarin, an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Guess why? Fixed tab and the menu satisfied everyone!  The birthdays trail starts in February (2), then March (3), then April (1), May (1), September (1), October (1), and December (1)

In the end, everyone got really sick of eating at Mandarin, and we visited the all-you-can-eat sushi places for a few birthdays, until we realized the good ol’ fashion house gathering is the best!

We now do that for other occasions too, not just birthdays. The 10 of us would get together either at my dad’s house or my uncle’s and have a feast! Europeans know how to celebrate – just ask around, before they ask you what would you like to eat or drink. After everyone’s fed, the cards and board games come out and it’s every man for himself!

We usually spend hours playing WhistRentz, or Canasta with Rummy tiles, although we’re not shy of Monopoly either (but it’s really long!), and more recently we started experimenting with Farkel (similar to Yahtzee), Sequence, and the ultimate favorite Settlers of Catan, a great game of strategy, luck, and friendly negotiations.

Six of us playing Settlers of Catan

Six of us playing Settlers of Catan


Are there any family traditions that you keep? How do you spend your birthdays?


17 Thoughts on “For all the Throwback Thursdays I missed

  1. Our birthday traditions for the kids involve good old mum (me) making 28 cupcakes to share around their class, then usually having our ‘inner circle’ of friends we’ve known the longest with all their kids around for a barbecue and another cake as well. Every second year the boys can choose a special activity to do with their best mates, like laser tag or a sleepover or a surfing lesson or something. My own birthday tradition is a firepit night where we make two huge batches of slow cooked lamb stew to eat with savoury scones around a little bonfire in the garden, plus a cheesecake from my favourite cake shop. J’s birthday usually piggybacks on St Patrick’s Day, where we have everyone around to drink Guinness and Baileys and say “to be sure to be sure” and wear green and eat beef and guinness pie and eat a green pavlova. We do the hosting, so I guess that’s kind of a European way of birthdaying?

    • Oh yes!! Very cool things you guys do! I like the idea of “every other year”. I’ve never heard of cupcakes until I came to Canada and I cannot say I eat many now either… I make muffins at home every now and then (or buy them) – in my head they are like mini sponge cakes and I like those.

      I have to say I drooling a bit over the lamb stew. Just the last 3-4 years I developed this love for lamb. Back home we eat lamb for Easter, but mom never cooked it right, and the house smelled like crap for days!! Over here, my uncle made lamb one Easter and I tried a bit, but fearful of it. Then about 4 years ago I had the best lamb chops! and I was sold. I now buy it 2-3 times a year, they’re not too cheap here :S (about $40CAD for a rack of 8-9 which go with one breath!)

      • I’m sitting here laughing my arse off at your description of your mum’s cooking. Lol.
        Until I met J, who is a New Zealander and they are extremely fond of their lamb, my only other experience with sheep was the mutton chops we used to have when we stayed over at our friend’s sheep station for a sleepover. Our friends’ dad butchered it himself from their older ewes which was pretty gross for a start, and my sister hates lamb to this day because she still associates it with that gristly, greasy, tough old meat!

        • SIDE NOTE: just the past week I learnt that “arse” is not a funny or formal way to say “ass” – it’s an actual word. I kept thinking why are ppl trying to be special and say arse, just say ASS, we all what you mean hahahhaha until I said it out loud and Mitchell said “but it is a word. LOOK IT UP!”

          back to the reply, ya, mom has a few good recipes in her arsenal that she excels at, and lamb is not one of them lol another side note…back home we had to repaint all the walls of our apartment and I have no idea (I actually cannot remember) why she needed to make this concoction on the stove for it. When I asked, she said she’s boiling down dog bones and something else… everything else she said went to “blah blah blah” because I was screaming so loud in my head at the sound of “dog bones”. IT SMELLED PUTRID!! I might ask her what the hell that was all about and put it on here, for everyone to get a sense of what I grew up with hahahaha

          • Hahaaa! Yeah we’re totally posh in Australia and England, especially when we call someone an ARSEhole! That’s so funny.
            And at the mention of dog bones my face just looked like that deer with bugging out eyes picture that Linda uses sometimes. Boiling beef or lamb bones to make soup stock? Okay that’s fine that’s totally normal. Boiling dog bones to… do what? What the hell would you need dog bones for?? And where did she get them? Oh my god, you totally have to find out and post it. I will read the shit out of it.

            • I know exactly which picture you are talking about… and the eyes get bigger gradually lol Mom will be here first week of May, I probably ask her that same night “mom let’s have some wine and talk about my childhood trauma!!” hahahha stay tune 🙂

  2. I so much enjoyed reading this post – I like reading about how different cultures work. The Czech Republic, where I’m from, is of course closer to Romania than to Northern America. Including the birthday girl paying for her party and the bride and groom paying for their wedding. One point I found especially interesting – that fourteen in Romania is like sixteen in the USA. We do grow up faster in Europe, don’t we 😉

    • Thank you for your comment and I know exactly what you mean!! by the way, I love Prague 😉 I was there in 2008 part of an organized tour of Europe, for 4 nights, and I could not get enough of it!

      I also feel Europe puts an bigger emphasis on “creating” more grounded kids – education starts at home, respect, and manners. I’m sure you had a whole lot of subjects to learn in school too, not just 3-4 per day (as I saw Canada has). I remember when I left in 10th grade, I counted one time 17 subjects we were learning per week – went to school from noon to 7-8pm (earlier grades had school in the morning). When I took grade 10 Math here, we were learning concepts that I became familiar with in grade 8 and 9… but anyway…the North Americans “win” at other aspects of life.

      I feel that we do grow up a little faster in Europe – 14 is the 16 here, and 18 is the 21 here (legal to drink). I really think the legal age to drive here is a little to young (16), but most likely it has to do with money being spent by parents a little earlier, for a car, insurance, maintenance, etc. which I personally don’t agree with lol

      • Oh I’m glad you enjoyed Prague! Romania is on my bucket list…

        Three or four subjects per day? That seems too few! We would have six to eight and it felt about the right amount of learning load, as far as I remember.

        I can’t help thinking that North America and the West in general tends to be a bit pampered. It’s funny though that you can drive since 16 but drink since 21 – how is drinking more risky than driving? I would say you could make more mess when driving irresponsibly rather than when drinking irresponsibly. But it’s hard to see it from a neutral point of view, we are moulded by the cultures in which we grew up.

        • School seemed very light to me until grade 12. I got this sense that they expected you (16-17yr old) to just know what subjects you need to focus on, and pick 4 per semester, and what you want to do later in life. Then the university workload kills you! Kids that just fly through the system find university courses to be over the moon hard and if they can’t keep the pace, nobody gives them a freebie. I have friends that started and finished university only to realize they hated what they graduated from and wasted all that time. Going back to school costs more money, more time… I am not too sure if that is the hidden agenda of the education system – keep teachers employed, universities and colleges full of students and the bottom line growing… I watch my sister and my brother now (born in Canada) and they somewhat struggle with high school in the sense that they want to take all these courses and get the sense of what they can/like to do, but they also run out of hours in the day to do all the homework and get some sleep too. My sister (17yrs) knows somewhat what she wants to do further in university, but my brother (16yrs) goes with the flow…

          I agree with you about driving and drinking!! I think Europeans teach their kids responsibility a little different. It’s somewhat drilled into the brain whether you liked it or not lol There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, but for the most cases it holds true.

          • I was probably lucky to have discovered quite early what my subjects of interest will be – naturally those that I was best at, so humanities. I suspected by the age of 11 that I won’t be into exact sciences and by 15 I knew quite certainly that I would deal with languages, which I actually went on to do. I’m sure there is some hidden agenda to education, as to everything else. I’m only not sure what it is. I happen to be teaching English now at what could be called a vocational university, and only the books I have to use are terrible. They do not reflect what the students will need in their jobs, they focus on preparing them for exams consisting of quite useless tasks. It’s books by Cambridge University Press, so one would expect that they know what they are doing, but it’s not the case. It’s hard to see a point in this kind of work. I found the university workload absolutely overwhelming when I started my first year, it wasn’t that one would spend more time at school, rather there was such a huge amount of material to grasp that I couldn’t figure out how to manage it. Something like your siblings who are already overwhelmed by their wordload.

            • In Romania we have this too – you go to highschool based on your choice of exact sciences or humanities 🙂 I chose exact sciences – my parents talked me into it because I was good at math and they wanted me to hopefully become some type of engineer, like them… I finished Human Resources here, with minor in IT Management. I’m no engineer!!

              Oh right, you get to work in the system and understand first hand what I mean! It’s so sad, but unfortunately all we can do is follow the rules and try to do our best…

              • Oh, so you’re the tech person! I hugely admire people with tech skills. I’m an aspiring geek myself, but I can’t help being more talented in the humanities. I just can’t take in anything too technical, anything maths-like.

                I love it how you said that whether we like it or not, we have to comply and do our best. I think that’s another difference between the West and the East – many western people seem to be such idealists who actually believe they can change the world. I can’t quite grasp this attitude, however admirable it might be. I prefer to stay down to earth, as seems to be the case with most people in my part of the world. I like to stay aware of my own limits and stay in touch with what is real and what is just wishful thinking.

                • I am the wannabe tech person hehe I know enough to get around, the rest I ask Mitchell for help. He’s the whisperer of all technology driven items… I learned the theoretical part of the IT, practice is what’s killing me hahahha I like numbers! I work with numbers and spreadsheets on a daily basis. I hate it by the end of the day, but I get back at it in the morning. I like to solve problems, find logic in things… I guess I can say I am not a very creative person. Although I love to read fiction and history novels and not pay attention to dates and numbers, but I can’t write that myself, I get all confused and lost in it lol

                  Absolutely hit the nail on the head!!! I have friends back home that “finished” growing up there and they think just like you said “they can change the world”. I even have a couple of friends really mad at me that I left and left my country behind and did not return to join the forces to change things and make it better! Those same people email me to go VOTE for their next president….I didn’t, but I saw many people outside of Romania did! Waited in line for HOURS just to sign for this new guy… that they all hate now…(((smashing head against the wall))) but you ALL desperately wanted him!

                  I am like you, stay down to earth, in my own corner, do my own thing, be happy with what I accomplish and move on. Hope for a stress free life and lots of health!

                  • I’m glad to have met you as someone from a similar background and with a similar worldview. Diversity is nice, but at the end I prefer to agree on things with people.

                    I’m ashamed to admit that I did vote for our current president – the choice was between an offensive guy and a guy with health issues which cause him to doze off regularly at meetings – so I went for the guy who manages to stay awake. Now I’m sorry that I even bothered to vote. There was no choice really. I think I’ll just ignore the next elections and will choose not to choose.

  3. Nice! I loved reading about your birthdays and the pictures are fantastic! My favorite is the one where you’re waiting for the kid to blow out the candles so you can jump at the cake. I don’t blame you! that’s how I would be, too! Probably to this day, LOL. Also, I had forgotten about that
    pressure in elementary school to have a party and to invite everyone. You’re right–kids would always ask when and where the party is! 🙂 Some friends of mine who have kids in elementary school worry about the cost of that, too. It’s not cheap to throw down like that!!! I love that you play board games now. That’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m constantly buying board games and trying to beg everyone to play them with me. I’ve definitely heard of Settlers of Cataan but haven’t played it before–I know that’s a popular game over here, too. In Germany birthdays are a bit different (not sure if the same is true in Romania?) When it’s your birthday, you’re expected to invite everyone to dinner…and then you pay for the whole thing. So, although you’re the star, you’re also paying for the group. Anyway, I enjoyed this post! 🙂

    • I think the whole Europe has the same tradition on birthday ‘rules’ lol. Just like you said, the Romanians are just like the Germans, we throw parties for the birthday (invite everyone) and payment is done from the pocket of the celebrated person. Sounds so weird for some North Americans hahaha but I think that’s how it should be! you want me there at your birthday party, you pay for it lol Even at weddings, there’s no such thing as ‘how much do you think it costed them PER PLATE so we can put that much cash in the envelope’ – people invited show up with presents or envelopes or NOTHING (them being there is a gift in its own).

      I am like you! I beg and beg for game nights. Even if I lose I am so happy that we played. No such thing as wasted time when playing cards or board games 😉

      I am always ready for cake (birthday or not) – less talk more eating please!

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