The changes over a life that has spanned 100 years and counting are myriad. Someone celebrating a centennial birthday has witnessed, accomplished and experienced amazing things and will have affected many people along the way. Party decorations should show off markers passed on the way to reaching the milestone and should bring pride to the honoree and family and friends. Showing off 100 years requires advance work, so give yourself a lot of time to create decorations.
A timeline showing off events is a natural decoration for a 100th birthday party. Use all the walls of the party room for this, creating a long, uninterrupted swath. Make the swath from materials like separate sheets of paper pieced together in panels, a wide ribbon or cloth unfurled around the room or even string. Mark the halfway point first, with the beginning and end of the swath representing birth and 100 years. Mark the 25-year and 75-year milestones next, then measure how long the 25-year sections are to know where to mark multiples of five years.
You have a lot of choices about how to make the marks. With paper, permanent markers can make bold large marks that are easy to see. If using ribbon or cloth, create marks by sewing stitches with a contrasting color of thread. Number appliques can be affixed or someone can embroider the numbers. A timeline constructed with cloth can be kept as a family heirloom.
Adding events to the timeline is a faster thing to do with paper than with cloth or ribbon. Picture copies can be glued in appropriate places. Write the year. Events also can be captured using the computer, then printed to paper or card stock for addition to the timeline. For instance, you could scan in a wedding photograph, add a caption and date, then print. You could pull a picture of the moon from NASA at its website, www.nasa.gov, to represent space flight. For captions and dates, use uniform fonts to pull the timeline together visually.
Use appliques and embroidery to put events into a timeline. Attach small objects to the timeline by using small pieces of ribbon or clear filament. Create quilt squares of different events, perhaps getting several descendants of the honoree involved, making it easy to attach milestones to a cloth timeline. Those who can't sew might turn to fabric paint instead.
People who have lived for a century usually have many descendants. If everyone is willing to contribute pictures, a wall can be used to show them off either as a collage or family tree. Use an artificial tree to hang pictures as well.
Many modes of dress have come and gone over 100 years. Check the basement and attic for clothes from years gone by. If you live in an area with consignment shops or one that sells or rents vintage clothes, you might be able to find a few representations of styles from different eras the honoree has experienced. Don't overlook sewing outfits that look as though they've come from different times. There are patterns available in sewing shops that reflect earlier times.
For delicate clothing, say, a 75-year-old wedding dress, use dress forms for display. Other clothing can be hung on rope garlands strung clothes-line style along one wall. Don't forget shoes if you can find them.
Find objects used during the last 100 years. Display these artifacts on tables throughout the party room or place them beside each other in the order of when they were used. This latter method creates a sort of 3-dimensional timeline. Showing the different types of telephones and typewriters used over the course of a century really gets across how much change the birthday honoree has lived through.
Digging through someone's old things, you might come across trophies or plaques stored away and forgotten. Dig these up to hang on walls and display on tables.
Make new commemorative items for the honoree, as well. Interview family members to find out accomplishments and passions, then have trophies and plaques made. Create shadow boxes depicting hobbies, dreams that have come true and milestones.
Nothing gets across the sheer enormity of 100 years more than having sets of 100 objects used within a birthday space. One hundred helium balloons released to float along the ceiling; 100 flower arrangements placed on tables, or 100 flags or pinwheels planted in an outdoor space can make a dramatic statement about how large 100 truly is.