Types of Anniversaries

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Anniversaries can evoke happy, sad and conflicting emotions.
Anniversaries can evoke happy, sad and conflicting emotions. (Image: mirecca/iStock/Getty Images)

Anniversaries and the occasions that they commemorate help add meaning to life. They recognize shared national and historic experiences, cultural milestones and accomplishments, and personal and familial events. Some anniversaries pass with quiet acknowledgement by individuals; others merit public celebrations on a local or national level.

Historic Happenings

Public anniversaries of economic, political and weather events help a nation define its identity and focus attention on a shared loss. Hurricane Katrina, President John F. Kennedy's assassination and Pearl Harbor represent historical anniversaries pertinent to U.S. citizens, while D-Day and 9/11 represent American anniversaries also acknowledged by foreigners. Memorial events for and documentaries of these moments in history help people stay grounded, spark discussion and help the next generation understand the lessons learned.

Notable Cultural Events

Americans commemorate milestone anniversaries of public works projects and structures that have become icons of national achievement, such as the Panama Canal, Golden Gate Bridge and Empire State Building, or that have local significance. They also mark literary anniversaries of publications and birth dates of the famous such as authors and presidents. The anniversaries of The Beatles' first U.S. tour, the first man on the moon and the launch of the Macintosh computer represent cultural-impacting events that people celebrate. Medical advances that improve lives have anniversaries such as the 60th anniversary of the polio vaccine, celebrated in 2014, and the 90-year date for the discovery of penicillin, which occurs in 2018.

Organizational Milestones

Colleges commemorate their founding with anniversary celebrations as do churches, charities and nonprofit organizations. Anniversaries are significant for companies, especially since, according to the Small Business Administration, only half survive the first five years. Businesses use them to thank the customers, employees and investors. Product anniversaries, such as Ford's celebration of the Mustang's 50th year, also give companies occasions to renew public interest, while employment anniversaries provide opportunities to recognize worker contributions and dedication.

Life Markers

Birth, marriage and death are important life anniversaries that connect family members and relationships. Despite the name, birthdays are anniversaries. However, most people associate the word "anniversary" with marriage as well as use it to note the years that have passed since losing a loved one. Wedding anniversaries follow a traditional gift calendar to recognize a couple's years of love, and some couples even celebrate the day that they met. Some people remember death anniversaries with memorial services or special masses at church; others visit grave sites. People recovering from addictions usually celebrate the anniversary of the date that they first stopped abusing a substance and entered a recovery program.

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