Comedian Bert Kreischer shared an entertaining story while appearing on “Conan” in August 2018. The topic: His daughter’s “period party.”
When Kreischer’s younger daughter first started her period, she asked him to pick up some supplies for a period party. She responded to his initial confusion by noting that “all the girls are throwing them” and instructed him to buy red velvet cake and icing to decorate it with the “name” of her period.
The dad quickly got on board.
“I had the best time of my life! I got beet juice, pomegranate juice, pasta with marinara sauce, ketchup and fries, red velvet cake, red wine!” he told the “Conan” audience. “It was awesome. I hope to God you hear it in a positive manner, and you fathers get to throw your daughter a period party.”
While “Flo” is obviously a popular pick for a period “name,” Kreischer proudly noted that his daughter chose “Jason” because the date of her menarche was Friday the 13th.
Although the idea of a “period party” may seem strange, Kreischer actually touched on something that’s not so uncommon: Many parents and their daughters celebrate this milestone in festive ways.
While some people just like to take advantage of any occasion to throw a theme party, there are generally more profound motivations behind period parties.
For many, this kind of celebration is a way to destigmatize and minimize the sense of shame around periods ― a topic that’s still considered embarrassing or taboo to talk about. Period parties also present the opportunity to address some of the fear, uncertainty and confusion young people feel around menstruation.
In January 2017, a Florida mom’s “period party” for her daughter went viral on Twitter. Twelve-year-old Brooke Lee’s mother Shelly organized the event to ease the preteen’s anxiety around starting her period.
She invited close friends and family, and they celebrated with pizza, a cake with red and white icing and menstrual product gifts.
Poet Dominique Christina described a period party she threw for her 13-year-old daughter while introducing her powerful piece, “The Period Poem,” at a spoken word event in 2014.
“And so then my daughter, she starts her period, and she’s stricken and walks out the bathroom looking like she’s died or something. And I wanted to undermine that,” Christina said. “So I threw her a period party, my homies rolled up, dressed in red, and there was red food and red drinks. It was great. All red everything.”
Some people refer to this kind of event as a “first moon party” or “red tent party,” which appears to be a reference to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. (The book follows the biblical character Dinah, a daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph, and its title refers to her tribe’s tradition of women menstruating together in a special tent.)
For some people, the concept of a period party may sound a bit embarrassing and over the top, but menstruation-related celebrations are relatively common in certain cultures.
In Tamil communities, there’s a special coming-of-age ceremony and party to mark the occasion. The Navajo have a ritual called Kinaalda. Many Japanese families historically made a nod to a daughter’s first period by serving sekihan, a dish associated with special occasions that features rice and adzuki beans (which have a reddish color).
Needless to say, the period party concept isn’t particularly new, but the modern, American, red velvet cake version seems to be catching on in our social media-driven world. Pinterest is full of period party ideas. The Instagram hashtag #periodparty brings up photos of menstruation-themed desserts and other festive fares. The parenting website Mommyish even offers a guide called “First Period Party Ideas Your Daughter Will Hate You For.”
This concept also has a history in pop culture. When the character Rudy Huxtable started her period in a 1990 episode of “The Cosby Show,” matriarch Clair wanted to honor the occasion with a special “Woman’s Day.”
Supermodel Tyra Banks’ mother, Carolyn London, threw her teenage daughter period party, which the two women described in their book, Perfect is Boring.
“One day, I was watching a National Geographic special and saw that in almost every primitive culture, there was a rite of passage ceremony where the women would come together to honor a girl who had just started her period and teach her all about it,” London wrote. “It was a celebration of womanhood, and an acknowledgement of passing into another realm.”
Inspired by this concept, the mom decided to host a party for Tyra. She invited her daughter’s friends, ordered a cake that said “You’re a Woman Now,” decorated the house in Tyra’s favorite color yellow, and put together a menstruation gift basket. During the party, London “gave them all the complete breakdown” of menstrual products, hygiene, anatomy and more. The party was reportedly such a hit, she threw similar events for her nieces as well.
“I appreciate that my mother never wanted me to be ashamed of anything, or to think that there was something bad or dirty about my body,” Banks wrote.
The event Banks described had a clear educational spin, which many contemporary period parties do as well. Organizations like Bloody Good Period and The Cup Effect have hosted charity-oriented period parties aimed at raising awareness and money to support women in need of menstrual supplies and other support.
Members of the HuffPost Parents community shared their experiences with period celebrations in response to a callout earlier this month. Many said they commemorated the occasion with a special meal, a mother-daughter shopping trip, a small gift or even an outing to get their ears pierced. Others put together menstruation-themed goodie bags with items like tampons, pads, chocolate, cramp-relief medicine, heating pads, soap, slippers, and more. Still others went the full-on party route.
“We had a small celebration. I got her red balloons and red velvet cupcakes. I also got a number 1 candle for her to blow out to commemorate the occasion,” Michele Lorenc Hufnal wrote. “I feel like when I was growing up everything was borderline shameful. I certainly didn’t want my daughter to feel that way. I think that by having a small celebration I was able to take some of the dread she was feeling and turned it into a more lighthearted day. P.S. She loved it. You don’t have to. No one has to. But I chose to lighten the mood.”
Another mother created a ceremony for her daughter to honor the occasion and show her how many women in her life could offer support and answer any questions about the changes in her body. Kate Nagel explained that she gathered female relatives and close friends (approved by her daughter) and asked each one to bring a single flower to create a full bouquet, “an item that represented what it meant to them to become a woman,” and a memory they’d feel comfortable sharing.
“I wanted her to know that she came from a long line of strong women and that she was not alone in and on her journey,” Nagel wrote. “I grew up during a time that women were made to hide, be ashamed and want to stop their menstrual cycle. I wanted her to celebrate the power she had by being a woman, by being able to bear a child and that this was a powerful time of manifestation in a 28/30 day cycle.”
Not all HuffPost Parents community members were on board with the concept of putting on a period party, however.
In the most-liked comment responding to the callout, Nikki Bull Pollard wrote, “Its [sic] bad enough I have to make a damn elf appear magical for the whole month of December. Now I gotta throw a period party? Up yours, Overachiever Mommies. Up. Yours.”
In the second-ranked comment, mom Tawnya Slater joked, “I have only boys.... do I need to plan a ‘first nocturnal ejaculation’ party? What do you serve at that party? Squirt?”
Still, another commenter offered a very diplomatic approach.
“In general, I think any celebration, ceremony, or loving acknowledgment of first menses as a rite of passage is wonderful and should be more widely practiced,” Amber Harris wrote. “I say in general, because often well-meaning people (and let’s be honest, sometimes they are mean people and think embarrassing other folks, especially their children, is fun and funny) forget to include their daughters in the planning and execution of the celebration and end up making the experience more embarrassing and scarring than sacred, welcoming or special.”
Harris concluded that as long as the young person being honored wants to have this kind of celebration and has agency in the planning process, it’s a fine idea. And even if the child doesn’t want to have a special event, it can be helpful to have an empowering conversation about menstruation and growing up.
Ultimately, however you feel about period parties, there’s no denying they are ... memorable. Period.