The first year my family went on a long summer camping trip, we needed water bottles to carry on our hikes. My parents headed to the local REI and returned with a bunch of bottles, all stamped with the REI logo. These were special anniversary bottles: “Celebrating 55 Years,” they said.
As a 10-year-old, those bottles drove me crazy. “Why was REI celebrating such an uneven anniversary?” I wondered. The company had recently celebrated a milestone anniversary, and it was doing well. Another public celebration so soon was just excessive.
Since then, I’ve always chafed at seeing businesses and organizations celebrate minor anniversaries. Two recent events have inspired me to air this grievance.
On Tuesday the Pittsburgh Steelers unveiled the throwback uniforms they’ll be using as their alternate uniforms, to celebrate their 80th anniversary. Others have objected to the look of the uniform, modeled after the uniforms the Steelers used in 1934. I’m objecting because the Steelers missed a milestone anniversary by five years!
Tiffany & Co’s offense is much worse. Tiffany is an old company, founded in 1837. This year is their 175th anniversary. To commemorate it, the company created a new metal. What is Tiffany going to do for its 200th anniversary? And why couldn’t it hold out for just another 25 years?
Hold on a minute – isn’t 175 years a significant anniversary? It’s not, because the older an organization gets, the farther apart its milestone anniversaries become. The United States celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, marking the occasion with a special quarter. No new coinage was issued in 2001 for our nation’s 225th birthday.
So, what are the significant anniversaries worthy of celebration? Here’s my list: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, (30th and 40th anniversaries are acceptable but very weak) 50th, 75th, 100th, 150th, 200th, 300th, 400th, 500th, 1000th. Sorry, old religions of the world. You only get to celebrate your founding every 1,000 years.
I have a keen eye for anniversary signs hanging outside of businesses. A theater company in my town is celebrating its 30th anniversary. My favorite sign of all time is the one at the top of this post, which has been hanging in the window of a dry cleaners near me for the past two years. So many things about this sign are baffling: Why not wait to celebrate the company’s 65th anniversary? Why is the sign still hanging? I have a feeling someone blew the entire anniversary sign budget a year early.
Of course, it’s different for individuals. Birthdays and anniversaries of the people we care about and love get more meaningful as they grow older. It was incredibly touching to watch my wife’s grandparents celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary two years ago, surrounded by family and friends.
My wife and I are celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary this year. I’ve put her on notice that pretty soon, we’ll be in five-year-celebration territory. And while I might shop at Tiffany for her anniversary present, I certainly won’t be buying any necklaces made out of fake-anniversary metal.