What is a period party? The menstrual milestone explained

Parents are hosting period parties to celebrate their child's first menstruation. (Photo: Getty)
Parents are hosting period parties to celebrate their child's first menstruation. (Photo: Getty)

When Tera Penoyer found out that her 11-year-old daughter had started her menstrual cycle, the Michigan mom immediately knew what to do: Throw a party.

“We had red balloons and posters that said ‘period party’ and looked like they had red, drippy blood on them,” Penoyer tells Yahoo Life. “We had a red table cloth and a bunch of tampons and panty liners stuck to the wall.”

Penoyer says she didn’t do this for her two older daughters only because she didn’t know period parties were a thing back then. She learned about these celebrations after watching one of comedian Bert Kreischer’s Netflix specials. In it he does a hilarious bit about his own daughter throwing herself a period party.

Since then, there’s been an uptick of these milestone menstrual moments being commemorated with parties. They may include a period-themed gift basket, red food like red-velvet cupcakes and a trivia game about periods.

Social media is filled with ideas and examples of period parties, along with plenty of comments from people who feel these parties are unnecessary and embarrassing. Kreischer, the comic who helped raise the period party's profile, says he was surprised by who has the most negative feedback.

“Women liked it way more than I thought they would have,” he says. “I was shocked that some men were the ones who had a problem with it.”

Kreischer tells Yahoo Life his daughter was not “100% happy” when she found out her period party made it into her dad’s comedy routine, but she eventually came around.

“What changed her opinion was those responses from parents and little girls,” Kreischer says. “I knew it would have that reaction because I witnessed them going through it and I knew it was something that parents were trying to figure out. So, when I hear ... that people are throwing period parties, it makes me happy because it is doing what I wanted it to do.”

Kreischer, who is in the midst of a worldwide tour, advises parents to listen to their daughters in regards to period parties.

“Let her plan it, and just be the co-pilot,” he says. “Let it be everything she wants and let it be her day of celebration.”

That’s exactly what Penoyer did with her daughter, who decided to name her period Angelica. The party welcoming Angelica wasn’t a huge ordeal; they planned it in a matter of hours and had it that night with décor they either already had or bought at the dollar store. Penoyer’s other children were there, as well as Penoyer’s boyfriend and his 11- and 9-year-old sons.

She says the party was a good way to celebrate and educate all of those in attendance. The mother of four girls is hoping to raise her children differently than she was, noting that she was taught to basically not talk about a menstrual cycle at all. She wants to make sure her daughters don’t feel ashamed when they enter this milestone into womanhood.

Shanicia Boswell, an author and founder of Black Moms Blog, has been hosting seminars, retreats and workshops for years in which she educates anyone who will listen about menstrual cycles.

She tells Yahoo Life that a period party can look different for everyone, whether it be a big event or an intimate gathering. However, she feels there should be some kind of acknowledgement of this major event in a female’s life.

“A period party could be a pajama party or just a mother/daughter day, or you could include matriarch figures and your daughter’s friends if she’s comfortable with that,” Boswell says.

She emphasizes the key is education, even if that means that moms, and also dads, need to learn some things and be comfortable talking about them.

“We are our daughters’ first teachers,” Boswell says. “If we don’t teach them someone else will. We need to release whatever stigma we have in our minds. Women have been having periods since the beginning of time and for some reason it’s still a super-secret. We need to get over that.”

Penoyer, the Michigan mom, still has one more daughter who has yet to reach puberty. She says when her youngest daughter gets her period, the family will absolutely celebrate it and her party will be a more thought-out, well-planned event.

“I know these period parties are new, but I hope they catch on because periods are normal and natural, and we shouldn’t feel like they are so taboo,” she says. “Plus, periods aren’t going anywhere so hopefully this isn’t just a trend.”

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