Landmark birthdays – and what they mean

June 6, 2006. Written by

Birthdays are a must for celebrating. Don’t let any of these marvellous milestones pass you by without having some fun

Birthdays have different significance for different people and cultures. Whether you choose to have a party or just a quiet celebration, here’s how to make them memorable for all the right reasons!

First birthday

First birthday parties point to the future. Inscribe a copy of a favourite childhood book of yours, for him or her to enjoy in years to come.

Chinese babies play chua chou (‘grabbing game’) on their first birthday. Objects like books, jewellery and cutlery are put out. What they grab indicates their destiny ‐‐ so a pen grabber might become a writer.

16th birthday

For American females, sixteen is where it all really starts. Stateside, no girl would miss out on her Sweet Sixteen party, at once a wondrous celebration of youthful teenage‐dom and a marking of the passage into womanhood.

To mark the Sweet Sixteen tradition, bring something suitably feminine and grown‐up as a gift, and be prepared to get on down at the party. Or you could give her something sweet, to remind her that it’s not just little girls who are made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’.

18th birthday

Turning 18 officially marks the end of childhood. Now you’re an adult, you can make your own decisions, you can vote ‐ and you drink down the pub! Traditional gifts, such as keys and tankards, symbolise this new stage of life.

The passage into adulthood is important in many cultures, although it’s celebrated on different birthdays. In Latin America, Quinceanera marks a girl’s coming of age on her 15th birthday and is usually celebrated with presents and a family gathering.

21st birthday

Twenty‐one was once the age of majority, and although this changed to 18 way back in 1969, the 21st is still the ‘important’ birthday for many people, as Prince William’s much‐publicised bash at Windsor Castle demonstrated. As a gift, buy the birthday boy or girl a copy of the newspaper for the day they were born.

To celebrate your induction into full adulthood, you could hold a smart dinner party. Use our setting suggestions for stylish tables to create a dinner table that’s as smart and sophisticated as young adults should be!

In Japan, the Coming of Age festival, Seijin no hi, is celebrated in January. It’s a public holiday and all the people who have or will turn 20 that year, take part in ceremonies to mark their passage into adulthood.

30th birthday

Thirty is an age when many of us have started to ‘settle down’, making fancy household items a good gift choice.

Throw a 1930s party to celebrate your new decade, with big band music and classic fashion styles. Base it around a Chicago gangsters theme, or get your dancing shoes, Fred and Ginger style.

You’ve probably spent the last few years working hard on your career. Use your 30th birthday as a chance to take some time out. Go and see those places you’ve always wanted to see and escape from the rat race, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

40th birthday

As one wit put it: ‘You’re only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely’! A great gift idea is to club together to buy the birthday person an ‘experience’. It could be a weekend at a health spa, hot air ballooning, or a day’s go‐karting. Give them something they’ve always wanted to do.

At 40, you’re still young ‐‐ make a commitment to yourself on this day to stay fit too! Join the gym or start an exercise routine. Take inspiration from Brad Pitt ‐‐ at 40, he trained for a year to get his body into shape for his role in Troy.

Brad also enjoyed a 40th birthday surprise ‐‐ his wife Jennifer Aniston flew Jamie Oliver over to their luxury mansion to cook for his birthday dinner party. Why not hire your own private chef for the night and enjoy a luxury supper with family and friends?

60th birthday

For many, turning 60 means swapping full‐time work for full‐time fun. Why not learn a new skill to celebrate your new‐found freedom? Try dancing, art, cordon bleu cooking or a language ‐‐ something you’ve always wanted to do, but never found the time for before.

You don’t have to slow down at 60. Playing to a crowd of 80,000 fans was part of famous granddad Mick Jagger’s 60th birthday celebration. Proof, if any were needed, that you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll…

65th birthday

Work’s out and it’s time to widen your horizons. When you’re 65, you’ll probably find you’ve got lots of lovely time on your hands. Taking up a hobby, going travelling, listening to music at top volume ‐‐ you can choose exactly what you want to do. Start with a big birthday celebration, and go on from there.

Leisure time rules when you’re 65, so buy gifts made for relaxing. Barbecues and garden furniture can be just perfect for whiling away those long summer evenings. Or, if your birthday person is feeling a bit more energetic, you could always buy them some DIY equipment.

70th birthday

Jenny Wood Allen started running at the age of 71, broke the London marathon record for the oldest female over 70 and took part in the race at the age of 90. Her achievement shows that it’s never too late to take up a new experience.

80th birthday

‘Youth has no age,’ said Pablo Picasso, and he should have known. The artist produced 140 canvases in his late 80s and carried on painting right until the end of his 91 years. Why not splash out on an art course for an octogenarian?

90th birthday

Reaching 90 is a major achievement. The average life expectancy in the UK is 75 (men) and 80 (women). The Japanese live the longest ‐ 84.9 (women) and 78.1 (men).

Ninety years of memories means an enormous collection of photographs. Some elegant photo frames could be just the thing. Or how about compiling a family tree?

100th birthday

Congratulations! Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived until the age of 122, took up fencing at 85 and rode a bike until she was 100. What was her secret of her longevity? ‘I took pleasure when I could. I acted clearly and morally and without regret. I’m very lucky.’

And don’t miss out on the message from the Queen! To receive yours, you need to complete a form and send it no sooner than three weeks prior to the anniversary date to: The Anniversaries Office, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA. You can download the form from the Internet at www.royal.gov.uk.

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