The Grotto

It’s one of my absolute favourite things to do. I do it three times a year.

It’s called The Grotto.

We love birthdays in our house and I like to do them properly. Birthdays are one of the few times I do a lot of cleaning. You can’t have a birthday with a dirty carpet!

The Grotto used to be where my mum Β Father Christmas stored the Christmas presents, but at some point my husband and I nicked the name to describe the pile of presents ready for a birthday.

We don’t believe in handing presents over. We like to set them up the night before. In The Grotto.

The Grotto is always in our fireplace and Pumba (from the Lion King, who I got for Christmas when I was about 21) is always in the centre, with the birthday cards in his mouth. We have to have a banner and balloons. And the presents arranged in the most enticing way around Pumba as possible.

Needless to say, The Grotto is always assembled late at night.

The boys don’t go to sleep until about 10pm anyway and, when there’s a birthday, it’s likely to be later. So we have to wait patiently. I can do my hoovering to keep me out of mischief. I make sure all clutter is cleared off the fireplace.

And eventually we get to put The Grotto together. It’s so exciting. I can’t describe how much I love doing it – arranging the presents, blowing up the balloons…


We stand back to admire our handiwork. Then my husband will adjust the arrangement of presents – maybe based on size, maybe based on the colour of the paper. It has to look as exciting as it possibly can.

My son’s Grotto for his 10th birthday was particularly good. He got a table football table and we arranged Pumba, the balloons and the remaining presents on top of it. The banner I got was one you could personalise with the name and age, so I was pretty pleased with that too. (I used to match everything up and order it from Party Pieces, long before I had heard of the Middletons. Now I just get what the supermarket has available as the kids aren’t into characters any more.)


The last thing we do before closing the door on The Grotto is take a photo. Or several photos. Even the photo has to be just right.

We are really hoping this will be the last Grotto in our current house. We’ll have to find a new location for it for my daughter’s birthday.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh wow that’s so impressive. I think I’d like to have a birthday at your house!

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  2. ah we do the same sort of thing. haven’t given it a name yet! xx

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  3. We do that too, in an albeit in named fashion! But I love having banners and balloons for them! And piling presents nice and high! X

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  4. How fun is this! I do something similar too but nothing as impressive as yours! I love how Pumba holds the cards every year for you guys too. #magicmoments x

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  5. I LOVE ‘the grotto’! I want one now, so will clearly need to get that tradition started here. Must dash – off to order a Pumba… πŸ˜‰

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  6. Oh my goodness, you go to town more than I do! Looks fabulous, loving the addition of Pumba too πŸ˜‰ x

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  7. What a sweet tradition! Visiting from #MagicMoments πŸ™‚

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  8. what a really lovely tradition, we dont have many Oliver traditions .. we try harder!

    Thanks for linking up with #MagicMoments x

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  9. Thanks very much, everyone. Birthdays in our house are good, Tas – even the grown ups get a grotto! I didn’t think we had many traditions, Jaime, but this is definitely one of them!
    When I read your birthday post I thought (once more!) how similar we are, Suzanne. Although you obviously take the cake aspect more seriously!

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  10. Aw that is so lovely! We always set the presents out after they have gone to bed as it is so nice to see their faces when they come down.

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  11. It is lovely, isn’t it? We keep the door shut (we never shut it any other time!) for the big unveiling πŸ™‚

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  12. Oh, that’s a lovely tradition, makes a birthday morning so much more special πŸ™‚ Loving Pumba with the cards in his mouth!

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  13. Thanks, Sara! Pumba is such an essential part of our birthdays. It started out as joke many, many years ago, but became a tradition.

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  14. Oh wow, you really make it special, we love Birthdays and Christmas, so much fun with a few children πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing …

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  15. Thanks very much, Claire. I love birthdays, I must say I’m not so keen on Christmas!

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