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Anniversary Celebrations

An anniversary is commonly associated with weddings. Married persons who regard the date of their marriage as important may mark the yearly date of their wedding in some special way.

Broader groups in society, especially the families, and even more especially the children of such a couple, may help to celebrate such occasions; this is particularly common on the 40th, 50th, and 60th annivs.

Retailers (especially jewellers), sensing a profit opportunity, have encouraged gift-giving on such special days, and may often suggest a hierarchy of types of gifts to reflect the importance of longer years of marriage (and perhaps of greater ability to purchase more expensive gifts).

The Traditional Anniversary Gift List

History of Anniversary Celebrations

During the early periods of Christianity, every possible occasion for celebration or ceremony was seized upon. The wedding anniversary naturally presented itself as an appropriate occasion for merrymaking.

The celebrating of anniversaries has been a popular custom since mankind began and notes eventful dates in the course of life. In an earlier age, when the burdens of life were more arduous, the hours of labor longer, and the routine more tedious, people looked for occasions that could be celebrated. Early "reasons" to celebrate were linked to cycles of life: seed-time, harvest-time, the changing of seasons, and life events the wedding, for example. The anniversary of the day became a legitimate reason to celebrate.

Traditional Anniversary Gifts

Until comparatively modern times, according to an early Emily Post, only eight anniversary years had a traditional anniversary gift associated with each:

First year traditional anniversary gift paper

Fifth year traditional anniversary gift wood

Tenth year traditional anniversary gift tin

Fifteenth year traditional anniversary gift crystal

Twentieth year traditional anniversary gift china

Twenty-fifth year traditional anniversary gift silver

Fiftieth year traditional anniversary gift gold

Sixtieth year traditional anniversary gift diamond

The convention of assigning a traditional anniversary gift to other anniversaries was well established by the middle of the 19th century. E. Cobham Brewer wrote in 1870 of gifts designated for the first fifteen anniversaries, for the decades and half-decades from 20 to 60, and for 75, which like 60, required diamonds.

The logic of such designations is that of hierarchical value, based on market prices. The idea is that happiness, or at least stability, deserves rewards, and the more stability the greater the reward.

The traditional anniversary gift list might be considered a bribe, as Post implied. Reacting harshly against the early 20th century custom of celebrating an "early silver" on the 15th anniversary, she counseled couples not to be impatient. Such an innovation, she said, was "not only incorrect but shocking in its implication of 'We must hurry to celebrate the important weddings while we are still married to each other.'"

The traditional anniversary gift list has become established over time, and today both traditional and modern lists exist.

Marking the Milestones

Today anniversaries other than 25, 50 and five-year milestones beyond tend to be observed with cards, calls, dinners, and verbal recognition. Many couples celebrate their anniversaries each year with cards, personal gifts and going out together, often for dinner and dancing, sometimes with longtime friends.


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