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Wedding Anniversaries-Past And Present

May 8, 2008
One of the most heart-felt and touching occasions that a couple can celebrate is a wedding anniversary. It allows a family to gather to celebrate its beginnings as well as allowing a couple to reconnect and to remember the reasons that they fell in love in the first place. While these celebrations have become more popular in the 20th century, many people would be surprised to learn that anniversaries were recognized in medieval times.

In the past, many married couples who lived in a particular region had the same wedding anniversary. This phenomenon was due to the fact that many small villages shared the same priest who did not have the time to perform the number of marriages that the people required. The Church soon decided that there would be only two times a year when marriage ceremonies would be held and that anyone wishing to be joined as husband and wife had to be present at one of these services. This practice led to numerous couples celebrating their milestone anniversaries on the same day by celebrating together.

These married couples did not celebrate their anniversaries very often however. In many countries, only the 25th and the 50th wedding anniversaries were celebrated. There are several reasons for these particular years to be considered special occasions. The 25th anniversary was recognized as an opportunity to rejoice in the couple's freedom from childrearing. As most couples got married in their early to middle teens, by the age of thirty-five (when most couples would be celebrating their 25th anniversary) most of their children were considered to be adults. The husband would place a silver wreath on his wife's head as a symbol of their unity and of the new stage of their life that they were about to begin.

The 50th anniversary was particularly festive due to the fact that in medieval times the normal life span was approximately forty years of age for men due to disease and battle. Many women passed away at a much earlier age due to childbirth fatalities as well as falling ill due to annual pregnancies spanning over many years. The idea that a husband and wife had both survived until their 50th anniversary was remarkable. This anniversary was marked by the husband placing golden wreath on his wife's head, symbolizing how valuable such a long-lasting union was.

In the 1930s society began to celebrate the 1st, 10th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and the 70th anniversaries. It was around this time that certain items were designated as proper gifts according to which anniversary was being celebrated.

In today's society, it is normal for married couples to celebrate their wedding anniversary every year. In an age where fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, many couples never reach their 10th anniversary while others are lucky to reach their 5th. So it may be safer to celebrate each year rather than to wait for a milestone anniversary that most people will never reach. This explains the reason that the festivities to celebrate the 25th and 50th anniversaries have turned into huge affairs as most people are astounded that these couples have remained together that long. In modern times, reaching these milestone anniversaries is an accomplishment in itself.

One heartwarming phenomenon in today's world is the growing number of couples who are celebrating their 75th and 80th anniversaries. When they were young, these couples lived in the age when teenage marriages were considered normal. Due to vast improvements in medical care, these husbands and wives have remained side by side well into their 90s with some even reaching over the age of 100.

The explanation as to why we celebrate wedding anniversaries may lay in the image of a 80th anniversary celebration where a 101-year-old husband is gently holding his 99-year-old wife's hand with a twinkle in his eye surrounded by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. This picture says it all. An anniversary celebration is a celebration of love and life itself.
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