24 Jul 2016

Milestone birthdays

Why is it that we seem to mark some birthdays as more special than others? Place more significance on them? Dunno really, not even sure every culture around the world does this... And those that do, don't necessarily have the same milestones!

I guess my own mixed cultural background comes in to play here... 

The first big milestone I remember - yet didn't celebrate - was 15. I was living in Mexico then and the "Quinceañera" was a big deal! But I mostly saw that through a friend's birthday two years after mine, as my family was on holiday in the US Southwest (fabulous summer camping in the "4 Corners" area!), and I was actually in Vegas for my birthday! Perhaps if we'd been in Mexico instead of out of the country there might have been a "Quinceañera" flavoring to the celebrations? Your guess is as good as mine! And it's not like many of my friends would have been in town, they were all off on their own summer holiday (international school).

Next milestone was the "Sweet Sixteen", nothing "milestony" about that celebration either (again, summer birthday), except a special gift from my parents: a beautiful gold necklace with my name in Arabic (which they had gotten for each of when we lived in Saudi Arabia, and saved for our 16th birthdays).

 (The thing with studying in an international school and having a summer b-day: most of your friends will be out of town and not there to celebrate with you! Story of my youth... Thus most of my birthday memories are very closely associated with family.)

Another big one just about everywhere (as far as I can tell) is 18. You're officially an adult! (HA!) You can vote, buy cigarettes, drive a car, drink alcohol, do your military service (or sign up for the army), become independent from your parents... Of course in some countries those things change (I'll never understand how the legal drinking age in the U.S. isn't 18 when you are allowed to vote and die for your country that age!!!). For many people it's also the year you graduate high school and go to college... Most of those "big events" didn't hit me at 18, but at various ages (driving at 17, drinking wine on special occasions don't remember since when, graduated high school just before 19 and started college at 19, voted for the first time years later...). What my 18th birthday did mark for me, was separation from family. I didn't go off to college, they went off to Florida (and left me in Mexico with close friends so I could finish my last year at the French Lycée and graduate with a Baccalauréat). And the gift they gave me was a good combination of my dichotomy at the time: very childish still, but very responsible and adult as well: a lovely watch (Swiss Army) hidden inside a huge stuffed animal / puppet of Simba! :p (I still have both! The watch on my wrist every day, 22 years later, and the lion appears whenever young kids are in the house).

As a 1/2 American, the next milestone birthday would have been 21 (alcohol!!!), but ummm... nope! No big deal when you've been in college in Spain for 2 years and drinking rum and coke when you go out partying with friends or sangría at Science faculty paella contests and of course wine with meals! :p Plus I was in Spain, not a milestone here so no biggie.

After 21 the whole milestone thing gets a bit fuzzy... Why are some birthdays more of a big deal? In Spain a funny one is 22, sometimes called "los dos patitos" (the two ducks, because of the shape of a 2). Some people also tend to say in Spain that you have reached "la edad del Cristo" (the age of Christ) when you hit 33... But it's usually just jokes and comments, nothing big about the celebration in itself. Then again traditionally in Spain people used to celebrate their Saint's Day (or name day) instead of their birthday, and there are still a lot of people who do it that way and for whom birthdays are no big deal...

Personally I kind of like the significance of certain numbers: 25 (quarter century, woohoo!), 30, 40, 50, 60... (society has made those "significant", as if there was some difference between being 29 and 31, or 39 and 41... it's just numbers! But I like that they're "round" numbers.) Of course as a women nearing and passing 40 has its own significance, what with the "biological clock" and decrease of fertility. For women who have been putting off having children ("some day"), it's time to make a decision: "some day" is either now, or never (both valid choices, but a choice needs to be made). 

I had a wonderful time celebrating when I hit the quarter century mark! Pretty much a whole week  during my visit home from Belgium (minus one day) in which I did something to mark the occasion! On the Monday I received a gift from my cousin in Virginia, on the Tuesday I had a birthday dinner with my group of university friends (before one left on holiday), nothing on Wednesday, on Thursday I had a birthday dinner with friends from the University dorm (from my 1st year at uni), on Friday I had a party at home (I remember I had to stop a friend from adding Tequila to the sangría bowl!), on Saturday I went out to a nice restaurant to celebrate with my parents, on Sunday some family friends came over for a birthday "merienda" (mid-afternoon snack, in this case cake and ice cream). Whew! I'm tired just typing it all up! (I must have some photos somewhere... just can't find them. Will update this when I do)

"Besties" celebrating 30 in Boston
But a week is nothing! My 30th was celebrated over a month-long period! :o) About a week before my birthday I went to spend a day with my grandparents in their retirement/holiday place, and celebrated with them. On my birthday I had a bbq/fiesta with my Alicante friends, then a few days later I flew off to Boston for a 10 day visit with my best friend from high school to celebrate with her (her b-day is just 10 days after mine). We went out for a nice birthday dinner in a fabulous seafood restaurant across from the Boston Aquarium, and had a good laugh at being carded when we ordered a mojito to start off with! When I got back to Belgium my roommate and another close friend had another birthday dinner for me... then a week later my roommate organized a surprise birthday party with most of my Belgian friends! To date it was about 30 days after I started celebrating with my grandparents. :o)

With the Grandparents in Bejis! :o)
No 2006 Alicante bbq photo but probably would look exactly like this a year later.
"Welcome Home" birthday cake in Liège!

I've got another milestone coming up next week... And I've been thinking... I really like the sound of "40 days of 40", don't you? ;o)

(Now let's see if I can figure out how to celebrate it over 40 days! Will it be over a summer-long 40-day period? Or a total of 40 days spread out throughout the year? Hmmm... TBD! Promise to blog about it though!)


  1. I loved reading this post - you have the most amazing background.

    Which day is your birthday? And which milestone are you hitting? You are NOT seriously going to be 40, are you??? I have a birthday coming up in 2 weeks - its a big milestone for me this year too. :-)

    1. Sunday!!! Wrapping up July in style. :o) And yup, 40 it is! Seems strange...
      Birthday in 2 weeks? So you're a Leo too! I knew we had plenty in common! ;o)

    2. Yes, I'm a Leo too. :-) I can't believe we never realized that before. And I am shocked you are going to be 40 - you look so much younger.

    3. I might look it, and act like it... but my body has made it clear several times that I'm no longer a youngster! :p

  2. Gosh, you're a youngster! I remember my 40th birthday as being a milestone, too. What a long time ago that was! Loved hearing your story and wish you the most wonderful of birthdays, Cris! :-)

    1. Thank you DJan!

      I FEEL like a youngster! :o) No matter how much my body (i.e. back) disagrees with that statement... :p

  3. Yeah it's a weird thing! I don't get it either. Maybe it comes from the past where it was a big deal to get through another year, let alone make it to the fives or noughts at the end. I fully believe, the older I get, it really is just a number and you never feel any different, maybe a little wiser and your knees creak a little more but other than that? Nope.


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