When October started, I realized that the worst month of the year – November – is almost around the corner. November is always the time of year when I question my choice to live in Finland. However, I have come to the conclusion that Finland is an excellent place to raise young children, so I’ll just have to come up with ways to make November less crappy.
I love bringing people together and organizing parties, and now that I have children, I have also become a fan of Halloween. I used to think that Halloween was just part of unnecessary American consumerism, but seeing how genuinely excited my kids are about Halloween (dressing up, decorations, and of course, candy), I have caught on to their enthusiasm. This year, our children got to celebrate Halloween three times: at their daycare’s own Halloween party, at our apartment building’s trick-or-treating, and at the Halloween party I organized for all the daycare families.
Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash
In Helsinki, the biggest challenge in organizing parties is that the average Helsinki apartment doesn’t have a lot of space. Luckily, there are affordable venues available, especially for children’s parties. In Helsinki, you can rent indoor spaces at playgrounds and resident parks, and at least in Lauttasaari, you can rent spaces from the church for a really reasonable price (60€ for 4 hours) for children’s parties, (even if you’re a pagan 😉 ).
So how do you actually organize a communal party?
To make it easier for others to make November, or the dark winter season in general, less crappy, I thought I would now share some practical instructions for organizing communal parties.
1. Fixing the date and sending out invitations
Start by fixing the date by checking the availability of the venue, as that is usually the biggest limitation for organizing parties. I checked the availability of the party spaces at the Lauttasaari church and then sent a preliminary inquiry to the parents in our first born’s daycare group via WhatsApp, asking if the proposed date worked for them and if they were interested in the idea. The idea sparked enthusiasm, so I booked the venue and created a nice invitation using Canva, which I then sent to the parents in the younger children’s daycare group as well. In the original message, I also asked if anyone would be interested in helping with the organization, and I got two volunteers to join me.
2. Party preparation
The actual organization of the party mostly happened in Google Docs. I created a Google Doc that I shared with all the parents for editing on WhatsApp. Before sharing the document, I asked for comments from the parents who volunteered to help with the organization, to make sure that all the important things were in place and that it was user-friendly. 🙂
The Google Doc had the following sections:
- Date and location
- Instructions for using the document
- Guest list
- Fun activities
Download the document here: (and then upload it to your own Google Drive, so you can easily share and edit it together):
In practice, I asked everyone to add their names to the guest list and write down where they could help. Since people are generally quite busy, it’s a good idea to remind them about this in WhatsApp 2-3 times before the party. 😉
In addition to this, it is the responsibility of the party organizer to check the list a few days before the party and notify the group if anything critical is missing and ask for help. However, it’s mostly about coordination – you really don’t have to do everything yourself. For example, on the Monday of the party week, we realized that almost 100 people had signed up (50 adults and 43 children), so we decided to use disposable plates and utensils to make the cleanup easier. So, I asked in the parents’ group who could help with that, and we immediately found volunteers. The key is to make very concrete requests for help (like, “Who could bring 50 disposable plates for children?”), so it’s easy for others to respond. I decided to create the official party music playlist myself, as I enjoy doing that, and my oldest child was happy to help. 🙂
3. Communication the day before the party
Once again, the lives of parents with children in daycare are very busy, and it’s easy to miss or forget things, so it’s good to send a reminder message the day before the party, summarizing the most important facts. My message on the Friday before the party was as follows:
“Tomorrow is the party! 🥳🙌 Here’s a summary of the most important information:
- Date and location: 14:00-18:00, Lauttasaari church crypt (doors open exactly at 14:00)
- Door code: XXXX
- What to bring: What you signed up for on the list & some light BYOB for adults as we are A LOT of people (headcount close to 100 now)
- Dress code: Halloween (adults can dress up too!)
- Program: Mostly socializing, playing, eating, and drinking, as well as dancing to the kids’ favorite songs. We also have a piñata and temporary tattoos for the children.
- How to prepare mentally: Think of ONE word that relates to something surprising about yourself. You will write that word on your name tag. (I thought it would be nice to learn each other’s actual names instead of always being referred to as someone’s mom or dad 😉)”
4. Day of the party
Actually, on the day of the party, there wasn’t much left for me to do because I had been great at delegating tasks to different people. Our three-person organizing team arrived at the party venue right at 14:00 when it opened, and we had agreed that I would be the one standing at the entrance, welcoming the guests, another person would be in charge of music and organizing the decorations, and the third person would coordinate the potluck buffet.
I had prepared white stickers for the adults to use as name tags, where they needed to write their own names, their children’s names, and one thing that is surprising about themselves. The basic idea was to try to learn the adults’ names as well, so it’s not always just “so-and-so’s mom/dad,” and to create an easy way to start a conversation with a new person. However, the last question posed a significant challenge for many, which I interpreted as being due to the fact that parents of preschoolers have such a routine-filled everyday life with household chores and meta work that it’s hard for them to remember cool things about themselves 😉 I tried to remind people that they have all lived for over 30 years and surely have had SOMETHING interesting happen to them in those years. 🙂
The party itself went very smoothly, and both the adults and children had a great time! In the end, you can throw a really nice party with very simple elements: some food and drinks and good company, that’s it! Finally, everyone helped with the cleanup, and we happily wrapped up the party at 18:00. 🙂