When exactly did “gift bags” at birthday parties become vogue? I was first introduced to the concept November 2002 when XBoy was invited to his favorite play-date’s First Birthday Party. The grandmother had put together quite the little swag bag, complete with candy, a Hot Wheels car, and some other do-das little boy-like in nature. I just figured it was an anomaly as the boy’s grandmother was a bit of a Martha Stewart.

It was a couple years later that I realized I was the stingy whore-mom on the proverbial play-date block. Not that anyone used those words specifically, to my face, but well, you know how nazi-moms can be when one doesn’t goosestep in cadence with the rest.

Since then, I’ve dutifully put together gift bags that may or may not included the cupcake our little guest had licked the icing off of, a handful of pennies, and an abandoned Happy Meal toy, all stuffed in a mateless sock and tied off with some butcher string. Hey, I never said I planned ahead for these things, just that I was able to send a gift bag home with the little whiners who may, or may not have, peed all over the toilet seat and disposed of a booger on the light switch panel (yes, really).

I went against the norm on XBoy’s 7th birthday party this past December. Per XBoy, he wanted a bowling party. The local bowling alley has quite a racket going with this idea. Two to three lanes are reserved for two bowling rounds; pizza and soda is prepared; plates and cups are provided. All a parent has to do is bring dessert, if they so desire. All for a mere $140.

My son did notice that I had not prepared treat bags and asked me about it. I told him that I thought a couple hours of bowling, pizza, soda and cake was more than enough.

 A couple weeks later, XBoy was invited to a birthday/bowling party. I received confirmation that I was a tight-wad when XBoy’s gift bag contained nothing other than a collectible diecast 1:25 scale NASCAR car (granted, dad worked for a company that probably got them as a promotional item – but still). What the hell?

Sometime between 1980 and 2002, party protocols have changed and I want to know what and who instigated this ridiculousness which is basically an incentive for attending a party. Have parents become so busy or preoccupied with their lives that the only way they’ll let little Johnny attend a birthday party is if he gets something in return other than a frosting stained shirt and a tummy-ache at midnight? It’s not right, and I’m not going to take it anymore! No gift bags for your sugar-buzzed, yard apes from this moment forward! Who’s with me?!

24 thoughts on “GIFT BAG OR GIFT? BAG.”

  1. Ugh. I hate the gift bags my kids bring home from parties: cheap plastic crap, sometimes inappropriante, and types of candy and chocolate ‘treats’ that they’re not allowed.

    I strongly suspect the gift bag ‘culture’ came into play with Generation X — the generation where parents were oh-so-concerned about their wee ones self-esteem and feelnigs, and didn’t want such things ‘hurt’ when ‘forced’ to give small birthday presents to the birthday boy or girl and not get a gift in return, even though it wasn’t their birthday. And even though they were being fed, entertained, given special party treats while there, and made to feel welcome by the birthday girl/boy’s family for a couple of hours. Gawd forbid a birthday party should be about the birthday celebrant!

    I have yet to do gift bags… but then I have yet to throw a party for anybody but immediate family essentially. My goal is to avoid it at all costs… parties are expensive enough.

  2. is there a banner??? can I carry a flag??? wear a button??? Do we get a slogan??

    I sooooo know the utter CRAP that’s expected when you throw a kids party. I ACTUALLY overheard a couple of women- talking about the “cheapskate” who didn’t send home goodie bags from a HALLOWEEN party. – not a birthday party, not a NECESSARY party- A party, JUST for fun, that cost that CHEAPSKATE over $100. A party where kids were given PRIZES of candy, and other goody-bag material for winning games and such.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that the cheapskate I’m talking about is me. My daughter hasn’t held a party since. We have AWESOME fun times with her- and JUST her. We make sure she doesn’t miss having parties, because I will NEVER EVER in my life put up with the asshatism of other parents who, instead of being GRATEFUL that their child was even INVITED, who got 2+ hours of free childcare on a SATURDAY evening, had the audacity to then call the parent who did this for them a CHEAPSKATE- because I didn’t hand out some junky crap that would just get thrown out the second it got through their front door. Some people really kill me…

  3. I remember being a kid and getting the goodie bags at the end of the party was the best part. I’m a swag momma gift bag. I admit it. I spend way too much on them too. But I decided I’d ratehr give useful stuff than the toys no one really plays with. I’d rather spend more money on stuff the kid might actually use, than less money on stuff that will be thrown away.

    Now, the area we live in(moved her 9 months ago) is very swanky and 2 of the kids parties my daughter was invited to this year requested no gifts, and instead donations to the charity the child chose. *sigh* now thats party insanity to me. I feel that charity work is great to teach kids…but I also feel that the birthday is not the time to do it. It should be all about the child. Their day to feel like a prince or princess. And to me…that includes goodie bags that the kids are talking about weeks later. Ya…I’m that mom. Sorry!!

  4. Yup I remember going home presents from the early-mid 70s. I do them for my two. They are a pain in the neck but my daughter has only ever been to one party where there weren’t any. Its cheap tat mostly but even so the costs rack up.

  5. I always got gift bags at parties growing up. My mom was the stingy asshole that didn’t even throw me a party, so there was never any pressure on her part.

    I do gift bags for the Mini, but he only has 3 friends and because they give him things like paint and playdoh, I return the favor in the gift bag with stickers, unwashable crayons, and oh, playdoh. I also put a big superball in one and his friend went home and threw it at their tv and broke it. oops.

    Next year I’m having his party at some sort of play place like a bounce house and I’ll decide about gift bags then. I don’t mind them, really and in general, they don’t have to be expensive. Most of the ones we get have some goldfish crackers, a piece of sidewalk chalk and maybe an inexpensive car or a sheet of stickers.

  6. Oh don’t get me started on this topic – I can rant for days about gift bags and over the top birthday parties.

    I’ll try and be brief. I have no idea what Stepford mommy started this effing trend but I say we all egg her house. Hate, hate, hate the whole idea of sending a little baggy of cheap crap home with my kid to “thank” me for dragging her to your kid’s party. I haven’t even experienced it yet – I just hear other mommies talk about it.

    IF I decide I don’t want to be the most hated mommy on the block (big if because I doubt that I will care), I will find inexpensive books to send home with them.

    I’ll refrain from ranting about the overblown theme parties that cost parents hundreds and hundreds of dollars and make me want to kick puppies.

  7. *trying to remember if we DID treat bags at Cass’s birthday party* I just can’t remember. I don’t think so.

    Here’s the craziest so far: C went to a party last weekend where there was a HUGE pinata filled with candy. After it was broken open, all the kids grabbed handfuls (C had two ziploc bags STUFFED FULL) …..and then the mom handed out treat bags. What was inside? Three stickers, a plastic top, and MORE CANDY.


  8. I received gift bags when I was a child, so I’ve just done them whenever my kid has had a party. That said–we haven’t done very many big parties. With summer birthdays I kind of got away with a sleepover for two friends most years.

    Anyway, I don’t have a problem with them. What annoys me is the pressure from certain moms to donate to their charity cause instead of giving a gift to the birthday kid, when quite frankly you KNOW it isn’t the kids idea and they are still young enough to want gifts.

    If they are old enough and they really actually want to do it, fine. But most of the time, it feels like just another way to be competitive, y’know?

  9. Ugh, I hate gift bags. Or, I hate the expectation of gift bags, I guess. When my kid was 9 months old we went to a bday party for a ONE YEAR OLD where there were gift bags. The kid was ONE. There was not a single guest over the age of three. None of those kids would have known the difference. And the mom had individually tailored the gifts in each bag to be appropriate to the developmental level of the child (stacking cups and finger puppets for mine). Too much pressure. I opt out.

  10. I agree with VHMPrincess. I did super simple little gift bags (brown paper lunch bags we decorated ourselves) for the one at-home party I had for a couple of the kids in our playgroup for The Snake’s 4th birthday. For the big 5 we had the impending cross country move, so no party.

    I think they often are a waste, but can see how they have become the norm. I’d have no problem with not getting one, especially with a big fun event type party.

  11. I did goody-bags for Maggie’s last party. Mostly that annoying dollar store crap that every parent hates….Hannah Montana lip gloss, those god-awful plastic clappers, bubbles etc….
    After she’s come home now with the same crap from her last 3 parties…I’m not doing it again. 6 year old girls do NOT need Bratz tattoos and Hello Kitty stickers (that she stuck all over her new dresser!!)

  12. In NJ (the NY/NJ/CT area is very different when it comes to parties, weddings, gifts and so on) I remember getting gift bags from parties since I was little. They are the norm and so are big parties. $140 is super cheap for a party, I wanted a swim party at a local hotel and for 10 guests it would have cost $400!
    We opted for a much less expensive bounce house party.

  13. I’ve been doing kid-only parties since 2002 and it neve occured to me *not* to do a gift bag, lol. They are pretty much the norm in my mind. By the same token, I wouldn’t notice or care at all if my kids didn’t get a gift bag at someone’s party. They are rarely junky things though, I try really hard to theme them to the theme of the party as do most parents around here. Interesting to read the opposing view 🙂

  14. I remember there being party favors at parties, and occasionally something to take home, but we didn’t really have a lot of organized birthday parties. Or maybe I just didn’t have any friends – I don’t remember.

    I don’t feel that gift bags are necessary, but then, I’m also too clumsy to goosestep…

  15. I always hated the CRAP that was in those stupid gift bags. Most of what Alex ever brought home had tiny plastic parts that just ended up scattered around the house and would get stuck in my feet when passing through the living room in the dark. I never did them for Alex’s parties.

    I figured when I am forking out a good chunk of change for food, the games, cake and heck yeah, the freaking beer I needed for when the stupid party was over, those little beasts should be darn glad they were even invited.

    Hopefully none of my boy’s parties were too boring. They always seemed to have a good time running around in the back yard and they all left sweaty, dirty and smiling. 😉

    I am with you and no gift bags for our girls.

  16. My mother always did gift bags – but we never did fancy parties. Usually just a sleep over. The bags were not fancy gifts and were only handed out when the girls went home. Usually containing something noisy as a payback to those parents who had let their children attend and keep her up all night. I didn’t catch on to this until much later. I am pretty positive I will continue the tradition.

  17. I don’t do gift bags and I never have. Part of this is because, well, I’m already spending enough on the party. The other part is that I really just don’t like it when my kid brings home a bag of junky toys from a party. She’s got enough stuff as it is.

  18. I don’t really get it either. I mean, isn’t the party, games, cake, ice cream and candy enough to do for party guests?

    But then again, I always make favors for showers, but it’s usually some pretty candy in a silly bag – more of a memento than a gift.

  19. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s we had gift bags at parties. BUT, they weren’t the elaborate bits you see today. No, it was usually just an extra cookie to take home.

    In my limited experience, I have given gift bags because I have only invited 3 kids to K’s parties (our 2 year old does not have a ton of ‘need to be invited’ friends). We have recieved gift bags as well, but, again, I think it was mostly because there just weren’t that many kids in attendance.

    Finally, I would never, ever EXPECT a gift bag for my child nor will I teach K to expect one.

    To each their own, if the parents have issues with your no gift bag policy that is their problem, not yours. If the child actually asks, “Where’s my gift bag, MoFo?”. That’s grounds to tell the ingrate to be sure the door doesn’t hit him on the way out…

  20. I do gift bags if the party is at my house (aka cheaper) but when we do site-parties (like Laser Tag) the party IS THE GIFT BAG and I don’t make them, even though the other mommies do. YOU GO!

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