As a Guiri parent of small children in Gran Canaria, you get excited the first time they are invited to a local birthday party. It’s a sign that the sprogs are fitting in at school and that their parents want to get to know you.
If you’re lucky, you end up at an outdoor asadero where the kids roam free and the parents get on with the most venerable of Canarian traditions; eating, drinking and talking too much all at the same time.
Unfortunately, most children’s parties in Gran Canaria happen at an entertainment barn known as a centro de ocio, ludoteca or jugadero. On paper, they offer everything needed for the perfect birthday party experience for child and adult alike; large play areas, entertainment, plenty of food and drink, BAR, etc.
Imagine sitting on comfy sofas sipping a cold drink and chatting while the kids are whisked away to a playground so vast and fascinating that they stay for hours. They finally emerge full of healthy food and surrounded by friends.
It’s so much fun that you all come back the next week even though it isn’t anyone’s birthday.
Hahaha! Just like the Hum, this perfect party venue is probably imaginary.
And the reality of kiddie parties in Gran Canaria is grim.
Death by party?
With one of the world’s sunniest climates, why are most birthday parties in Gran Canaria celebrated in dingy bunkers?
And why is forced out of dodgy speakers at 120 decibels?
And does it have to be dodgy salsa? Every time? For three hours!?
And is there really no alternative to tortilla, white bread sandwiches, and crisps?
The hum explained
As a kiddie party get into full swing, the music, screams and shouting reverberate and amplify. The sound distorts and grows until you feel like you’re at a rave inside a car ferry halfway across the Bay of Biscay. During a hurricane.
When scientists get round to studying the Hum, they’ll find that it starts in Gran Canaria’s birthday venues and spreads around the world. It’s not aliens that are driving us mad, it’s the Macarena.
Grin and bear it?
You’re probably thinking “oh, come on, it can’t be that bad”, or “just grin and bear it, for the kiddies”.
And yes, you can maintain a polite conversation around a bowl of crisps and a warm Coke. And the kids will eventually get so exhausted that they’ll sleep through the effects of the junk food and lurid sweeties.
Unless you’re unlucky and it’s your sprog that sustains a serious injury in the ball pit, or tantrums out and has to be dragged away in hysterics. There’s always one!
The mathematics of survival
Anyone can survive a party, but let’s do some maths here.
Each child is in a class of 20 and gets invited to at least 15 birthday parties per year. That’s more than one party per month. For 10 years.
If you have two or (god help you) three kids, the maths gets terrifying.
There’s a reason why most Spanish parents only have the one sprog.
Just go to the beach
We live on an island with one of the world’s best climates. It’s warm enough to have an outdoor party almost every day of the year.
So please, when it’s your little Juan’s turn to host a party, hold it on the beach, or in a park, or a plaza.
But not at Katapum. Please god, not at Katapum!