The invention of the birthday.
Why celebrate your birthday?
Wedding anniversaries: the symbols.
How to celebrate an anniversary?
This common noun of Latin origin is composed of two words, annus, which means year and the verb vertere, which means to return. A birthday is, therefore, a celebration or ceremony that occurs every year.
According to the French dictionary Le Robert, an anniversary is a day that brings back the memory of an event that happened on that day one or more years ago (usually resulting in a celebration). Their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The anniversary of someone’s birth.
According to the Larousse French dictionary: commemoration of an event celebrated on the anniversary of the date on which it took place: in particular, the anniversary of someone’s birth: to celebrate one’s birthday.
The invention of the birthday party
Lighting the candles, bringing the illuminated cake in front of the hero of the day, singing “happy birthday“, blowing out the candles, sharing the cake and giving presents is a ritual that is almost identical in many countries. But how did this tradition start?
Celebrating one’s birthday or the birthday of one’s loved ones is a must, so much so that we don’t even question the origin of such a custom. Here is a small overview of the growing adoption of the birthday developed by the author Jean-Claude Schmitt in his book “l’invention de l’anniversaire” published by Arkhé,
The first condition for celebrating one’s birthday is to know one’s year of birth. But in the past, the approximate knowledge of one’s age was the rule in all strata of society. It was only at the end of the Middle Ages that people began to be fascinated by horoscopes to better predict the great destinies of the Court.
In medieval times, anniversarium did not refer to the birthday, but to the day of death. Monks and clerics, in return for payment from the heirs, celebrated masses on this anniversary in the following years in memory of the deceased. At the time, Christian ideology encouraged remembering the day of one’s baptism rather than remembering the birth.
Commemorating the day of one’s birth only appeared timidly in the 12th century. For example, King Louis XIII was paid small tributes on his fourth birthday when he was taken to mass to hear a Te Deum in his honour.
Since antiquity and until the 19th century, there has been a different way of punctuating the different stages of life than the birthday. These are broader periods that people go through, called the ages of life.
The idea is that of a growth (augmentum), a peak (statum) and a decline (decrementum).
The scheme attributed to Pythagoras proposed four ages: puericia or infancia, adolescentia, juventus, senectus.That is, childhood, adolescence, youth and old age.
During the Renaissance, thanks to the success of astrology, philosophers counted 7 ages of life in comparison to the 7 planets that revolve around the earth. (The Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).
During the first four years of life, the Moon has a great influence on the child: he is unstable and imperfect. From the age of 4 to 14, Mercury is responsible for the first organisation of the soul. From 14 to 22, Venus introduces the impulses of love into the soul, from 22 to 41, the sun gives the mastery of action. From 41 to 56, Mars brings dissatisfaction with oneself, but also the desire to accomplish more noble deeds. From 56 to 68, Jupiter brings calm and dignity. Finally, after 68 and until death, Saturn brings melancholy.
Thus, the individual birthday was at first a pretext for orgies in Latin antiquity, before being condemned as a sin of pride by the Catholic Church. It was not until the Protestant reformation challenged the cult of saints and the age of civil status became a powerful regulator of life courses that the birthday reappeared in the 20th century in Catholic lands.
In conclusion, the birthday, which we celebrate today with cake, candles, presents and ‘happy birthday’ wishes, is a very contemporary thing.
“Happy birthday to you” is a world famous song. Originally sung in English, the lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages. It was originally composed in 1883 in the United States by two American women. The two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, were school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky, at the time. The melody of “Happy Birthday” came from Good Morning to All, a song that was easy for young children to sing to welcome them in the morning and express the joy of reunion. Then, in 1914, “Robert” Coleman gave it its definitive lyrics to wish a “happy birthday” in song… The first written record of the association between the melody and the words “Happy Birthday” dates from 1912.
In French,the famous song “Joyeux anniversaire, nos vœux les plus sincères” was composed round 1951. The lyrics are by Jacques Larue and the music by Louiguy. The song was created by André Claveau in the film Un jour avec vous (1951) a musical by Jean rené Legrand.
Happy Birthday is a 1981 single written, produced and performed by Stevie Wonder. Wonder created the single as part of the campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday a bank holiday and to publicise the cause. In addition to being released as a single, the song also appears on Wonder’s album, Hotter Than July. It became one of Wonder’s biggest hits in the UK. US President Ronald Reagan approved the creation of the holiday in 1983. Martin Luther King Day was set for the third Monday in January each year. It was first celebrated on 20 January 1986 and was commemorated with a large-scale concert, headlined by Stevie Wonder.
Why celebrate your birthday?
What could be more fun than a birthday party? It is an opportunity to gather loved ones, family and friends. A birthday party can also be an excuse to organise a reunion and to bring together different circles of relations. It is a great opportunity to meet or see other people you would not have seen otherwise.
The word anniversary is synonymous with the passing of time and refers to two different moments: the annual return of the date of an event and the commemoration of that event. For individual birthdays we celebrate them every year, especially among children and younger people. Children are happy to grow up and proudly announce their age, unlike adults who are apprehensive about growing old. It is rather the changes of decades and Jubilees that are commemorated most in adulthood: 20 and 25 years, 30, 40 and 50 years, 60, 70 and 75 years, 80, 90 and 100 years. Commemorations for historical events are celebrated each 100, 200, 500 or 1,000 years. These commemorations are a way of keeping historical events in the collective memory.
Wedding anniversaries are one of the most important events in a couple’s life, and fortunate are the couples who manage to overcome all the obstacles of life together. The important thing is to continue to love each other, despite the passage of time, to tolerate each other, despite the other’s faults. It is an opportunity to break the routine and remember the day when two people came together for better or for worse. Each year of the wedding anniversary has its own wedding to celebrate. The names given to each year of marriage represent the number of years of commitment. From cotton to oak, crystal, mahogany or iron, it can be seen that the more the years go by, the stronger the bond between two married people becomes.
Each wedding has a name and a symbolism.You should know that there are some regional differences. Here I give you the names of the wedding anniversaries in Belgium. Let’s start with the first 20 years. Then we will look at the anniversaries of the change of decades and the jubilees.
1 year of marriage: cotton wedding.
The first wedding anniversary is called the cotton wedding and symbolises the ties that still need to be woven to build a happy life. The threads of cotton are delicate, but when they are intertwined, they become very strong, like in a relationship.
2 years of marriage: leather wedding.
Two years of marriage is like leather. This union represents the perfect mix between the solidity of leather that lasts over time and the fact that the relationship can still be built upon.
3 years of marriage: wheat wedding.
Wheat is a variety of soft wheat that represents life, fertility, prosperity and eternal love. A true symbol of good luck in many cultures, the sheaf of wheat is meant to represent a stable and fruitful love.
4 years of marriage: wax wedding.
Wax is a natural material that is very resistant and also malleable when heated, like the couple who must sometimes make compromises as they grow together.
5 years of marriage: wood wedding.
Wood symbolises the solidity of the couple, which strengthens its history according to the events, with happy moments and other difficult moments, sunny passages and others that are darker.
6 years of marriage: cyprus wedding.
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean once called the island of Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility. Cyprus is also a perfume base extracted from a lichen that grows on oak trees, now called oak moss and in the 16th and 17th centuries “Cyprus powder.”.Chypre is used as a base for some of the great classics of perfumery, such as the perfume Chypre created by the famous perfumer Guerlain in 1840.
Celebrating six years of marriage is, therefore, a true hymn to love and exoticism.
7 years of marriage: wool wedding.
Wool is a soft fibre that warms the lovers. And under the blanket, the couple snuggle up to each other while knitting their relationship and weaving their nest.
8 years of marriage: poppy wedding.
The poppy conveys the message that life is fleeting and that we should enjoy the moment. After 8 years of marriage, the time has come to rekindle the flame of love like the pretty colour of the poppy that never fades. Although it may look fragile, the poppy is solidly rooted, it resists the weather conditions just like your couple and if sometimes routine becomes burdensome, your love is as vivid as on the first day, especially if you are careful to maintain it.
9 years of marriage: earthenware wedding.
Earthenware is a type of terracotta pottery with an opaque, glazed or enamelled paste often used for decoration or tableware. The manufacture of an earthenware object requires a lot of patience, especially when the decorations are hand-painted. Your marriage too was built with patience and is at the same time beautiful and fragile, just like earthenware. Take care of your married life as you would take care of a beautiful piece of earthenware.
10 years of marriage: pewter wedding.
The pewter wedding anniversary is an event in the life of a couple and is often celebrated with family and friends. Pewter is a precious metal and is as strong as ten years of marriage. Pewter will bring you luck. You have certainly had difficult moments, doubts and arguments, but you have managed to overcome them and consolidate your marriage. This is the occasion to celebrate the ten-year milestone: congratulations!
11 years of marriage: coral wedding.
Your marriage is as strong as a coral reef. But beware, nothing lasts forever, you have to keep your passion alive. The coral lives in a colony like the family you may have founded.
12 years of marriage: silk weddings.
Silk has a soft texture that is not slippery with a fine, slightly shiny effect. It is one of the strongest natural fibres. Silk fabrics are mainly made from the cocoon produced by the caterpillar of the silkworm. Keep yourselves cocooned for this anniversary and look after each other as you have done until now.
13 years of marriage: lily of the valley wedding.
The number 13 is traditionally associated with misfortune and evil. Perhaps this is why 13 years of marriage is called the wedding of the lily of the valley, a flower that brings happiness.
Perhaps you have received lilies of the valley as a gift for good luck, the little perennial plant whose fragrant bells light up the month of May? So will these 13 years bring good luck? We hope so.
14 years of marriage: lead wedding.
Lead is a metal that becomes stronger and stronger with time, like the ties that bind the couple. Their relationship stands the test of time.
15 years of marriage: crystal wedding.
The couple have built a pure and limpid love like crystal, a guarantee of purity and brilliance. Moreover, the crystal has a particular sound like the couple who over the years have built their own specificity.
16 years of marriage: sapphire wedding.
The sapphire is a precious stone with a wonderful sparkle. In love, the sapphire symbolises the purity of feelings, a peaceful union as well as the fidelity essential to 16 years of life together.
17 years of marriage: rose wedding.
The red rose is a symbol of intense passion. The pink rose also symbolises love, but in a much more tender and gentle way. The white rose is the flower that symbolises pure and sincere love. The rose is truly the romantic flower par excellence. But the rose can also sting you when you touch its thorns, like some of the tensions that a couple sometimes encounters, because not everything is rosy.
18 years of marriage: turquoise wedding.
Turquoise is a blue-green mineral that is very resistant to time. In lithotherapy, it helps to communicate. Turquoise absorbs bad energies such as bad thoughts. It will tend to take the hard knocks of life for you. Turquoise makes positively, it influences the temperaments to make them more serene: many assets essentials to the longevity of your couple.
19 years of marriage: cretonne wedding.
Cretonne is an extremely strong fabric, made from fibres that are already very strong. It is a strong, tightly woven material in comparison to the strength of your love.
20 years of marriage: porcelain wedding.
Already two decades together! This is the wedding of porcelain, a translucent, waterproof material based on kaolin, which is used in fine ceramics.
If you take care of porcelain, it is very resistant to time and impacts. This is why it symbolises the twentieth wedding anniversary: you have taken care of each other and avoided breaking your unity. In spite of the splinters that have appeared, the harmony is still there and testifies to the special care and deep desire to continue your love story.
25 years of marriage: silver wedding.
You have been married for a quarter of a century: this is an important anniversary to celebrate. Silver is a malleable white metal that is used to make jewellery. The origin of this symbolism goes back to ancient times. Indeed, the 25-year wedding anniversary was the first celebration organised for spouses, as they did not celebrate the previous 24 years. The bride and groom received a silver crown for this occasion. You celebrate your brilliant success and your resilience in the face of everyday obstacles.
30 years of marriage: pearl wedding.
Pearls are small, often white, beads made naturally by certain molluscs such as oysters. They form spontaneously when the mollusc reacts to the presence of an impurity or other foreign body that penetrates the shell by gradually covering it with nacre. The pearl is synonymous with purity and solidity. Your three decades together prove this.
40 years of marriage: emerald wedding.
The emerald is a mineral, a variety of beryl, whose green colour comes from traces of chromium, vanadium and sometimes iron.The emerald is a precious stone. In lithotherapy, the emerald would represent fidelity in the love relationships and the happiness which they get. It would repel the negative waves and the bad influences. It would increase wisdom and patience. A very nice symbol for your 40 years of marriage.
50 years of marriage: golden wedding.
You have lived together for 50 years! Your history is worth its weight in gold! A half-century marriage is not a common thing like gold, it is rare and precious. Gold is a bright yellow metal, very ductile and malleable. It has been used by man since the 5th millennium BC. The golden wedding anniversary marks the success of both a marriage and a family life.
60 years of marriage: diamond wedding.
Sixty years hand in hand. Always together, always united. Your union is, like the diamond, eternal. After all, diamonds are the hardest of all natural materials. When cut, it sparkles. Diamonds are a guarantee of lasting love, passion and romance.
70 years of marriage: platinum wedding.
Platinum is a rare and therefore expensive element, a noble metal that resists corrosion. Its rarity makes it a symbol of eternity, purity and love. 70 years of loving and supporting each other, in good times and bad… It is probably the dream of many people to reach this point…
75 years of marriage: alabaster wedding.
A variety of compact coloured or very white gypsum, similar to marble but warmer to the touch. Alabaster is often used in sculpture and has the particularity of taking on a beautiful polish. Symbolically, alabaster represents the multiplicity of grains assembled into a harmonious unity. A beautiful definition of 75 years of life together.
80 years of marriage: oak tree wedding.
80 years of marriage: oak wedding anniversary.
The oak tree is a large, long-lived tree found throughout the northern hemisphere, as are truly exceptional wedding anniversaries. These couples have experienced many historical and personal events and have also witnessed many technological innovations…
The oldest living married couple in the world at the end of December 2019 are Charlotte and John Anderson, from Texas, they officially celebrated their oak tree wedding anniversary on 22 December 2019. They met when they were in their twenties on the university benches.
Some couples who have lived together for more than 80 years:
In France, Georges and Georgette Hébert (née Hache) Their marriage, celebrated on 5 January 1929, lasted 81 years and 335 days and ended when the husband died.
Marcel and Paulette Darcy (née Hugon) were married on 9 September 1930 in Dijon. Their union lasted 82 years and 252 days as of 19 May 2013, when Mrs Darcy passed away at the age of 102 years and 278 days. Mr Darcy died on 20 April 2018 at the age of 109 years and 164 days: he was the 4th oldest man in France.
Americans Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher were married on 13 May 1924 and were united for 86 years and 290 days until the groom’s death in 2011 at the age of 105 and Zelmira’s in 2013 at 105. During their lives they had 5 children, 10 grandchildren and 9 great-grandsons. There is no doubt that the secret of longevity lies in a happy and lasting marriage.
The longest marriage on record is that of Daniel and Susan Bakeman (née Brewer). They have reached their heliodore wedding anniversary (91 years of marriage). Heliodore is a yellow mineral with greenish or honey-coloured tones. This American couple got married in 1771 in New York: at the time of their marriage, Daniel was 12 years old and his wife Susan was 14. Soon after, he joined the US Army during the Revolutionary War. Their marriage lasted 91 years and 12 days. Susan died at the age of 105 in 1863. When Daniel died on April 5, 1869, he was most likely the last surviving veteran of the Revolutionary War.
Maybe you won’t reach the Uranium Wedding (85 years of marriage) but one thing is for sure, wedding anniversaries are a great opportunity to renew your vows as you did on your first day of marriage. Of course, you don’t have to give a gift related to the symbolism of the year. Choose a romantic gift that will please your other half and if you have the imagination, you can organise your wedding anniversary with a theme.
How to celebrate a birthday?
To conclude, nowadays we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with a cake, candles, gifts and “happy birthday” wishes.
A birthday card is mostly sent to family members and close friends.
The text is almost as important as the gift. It is important to write a birthday message that is both original and personal. And remember to renew it every year! For a colleague’s birthday, e.g. at a drink party, a group card is nice.
You can also send a birthday card by e-mail. A business card attached to your gift or a bouquet of flowers.
A birthday party is a nice opportunity to bring family and friends together. At the time of the birthday cake, we all sing the happy birthday song together and the hero of the day blows out his candles and makes a wish. You can organise a themed party with a nice decoration and where the guests can come in disguise. Choose a theme that is original but not too complicated so that you can easily find a disguise. For example, movie night, western night, 80’s night, etc.
Remember to give a gift that takes into account the wishes and personality of the person for whom the gift is intended. If you have to give something to someone you don’t know very well, choose a classic gift that is carefully chosen and of good quality.
How to find an original gift? What gift to give? We advise you to visit our gift site Gifts-custopolis.com where we offer you many ideas for gifts that can be personalised or not.
Schmitt Jean-Claude, « L’invention de l’anniversaire », Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 2007/4 (62e année), p. 793-835.URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-annales-2007-4-page-793.htm
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