Birthday parties are back — and some parents are relieved to scale down

They’ve been creeping back onto calendars since sometime last year, as the country has limped toward a new normalcy. Now it seems the true resurgence has arrived, bringing

with it an eternal truth: If you want to make a parent feel a rush of excitement, or a surge of stress, or a wave of anxiety, or maybe just exhaustion, tell them they’ve been

invited to — or have to plan — a child’s birthday party. “I love kid birthdays,” says Lois Montague, a mother of two young children in Napa, Calif. “We invite everyone.”

“Even just talking about those themed, super-organized parties makes me anxious,” says Matthew Koehler, father to a 9-year-old daughter in D.C. “My wife and I are

introverts.” “Oh, the treat bags are where I feel pressure, for sure,” says Jessika Boles, a mom of two in Nashville. “Some moms have custom-made cookies that they

individually package with ‘so-and-so’s fourth birthday’ and a princess tiara on it, that kind of thing, and a bunch of little toys and candies, and you can tell, well, this

probably cost $15 or $20 per kid.” After varying periods of pandemic hiatus, the birthday party scene has rebooted, and parents are figuring out exactly what that means.

Gifts, or no gifts? The whole class, or just a few friends? Where are we doing this, and do we want to be doing this? As weekends book up, parents say the celebrations often veer

toward opposite ends of the party-planning spectrum: either more bombastic than ever, as the design fanatics reacquaint themselves with their creative muscles; or decidedly more

mellow, as families embrace a casual vibe.