Anniversaries are an important opportunity to stop and take time to reflect on the significance of a particular person, day or time in our life. There can be public anniversaries, times of national celebration and euphoria like a royal golden wedding anniversary, where there is much coverage of all that has happened during the intervening years since the original event, prompting a time of national nostalgia. Or there can be anniversaries commemorating a special national triumph, like a major sporting achievement. And these times can provide important opportunities to pull together as a nation and reinforce a country or community’s united sense of pride and loyalty.
There can also be anniversaries that provide a time of national mourning, a time to respect and commemorate the people who have died on our behalf, the valour of people who experienced great hardship or difficulties for an important belief, right or freedom. The shared emotion of these times is also a time for individuals to recall their own experience of loss. Personal memories and associations are always a factor in the midst of a national emotion. We may have lost family members or loved ones, or we may empathise and have other experiences of loss that allow us to share and connect with the feelings of deep emotion at these times.
Personal anniversaries are often a time of joy and celebration. Birthdays and wedding anniversaries can be times when the whole family makes the effort to reunite and celebrate whilst also catching up on news and closeness that may have been neglected during the intervening time. They can also be tinged with sadness and nostalgia, remembering those people who are no longer around.
Some families maintain the tradition of celebrating a mother’s birthday long after she has died. They know how much she enjoyed seeing the whole family together and continuing the tradition is an important way to honour her life and her memory. These times provide an opportunity for families to reconnect, to take time to be with each other and reinforce the family bond once more.
Remembering the significance of an anniversary is important too. A couple may buy each other gifts and cards, go away for a weekend together on their wedding anniversary, but it is also important to take time out to remember their vows and commitment to each other. It can provide an important time to reflect on their life together and the various experiences, challenges and successes that they have been through. These times provide an opportunity to stop and reflect on the importance of their relationship, how much it means to them and to value what they have. It provides an interlude to commit to appreciating it again fully.
Celebrating the life of a loved one no longer with us can be a very special way to remember an anniversary. Some families may choose to share a meal, a toast, time together. National mourning for a public figure can also provide an opportunity for people to grieve for their personal loss, as they share in the emotion of other people. Rituals can provide comfort and a sense of familiarity, of coming back to ones roots at a designated time. They can provide reassurance and grounding.
There can also be other types of anniversaries. Some people recall the time when they made an important decision, to end a marriage, leave their job, start their own business, change their image. Remembering these dates can be a poignant occasion. Often even if these choices turn out to be less than perfect or smooth to achieve, the date of a major change of direction or the start of an eventful new beginning can be remembered with affection and celebrated. We can take the time on these days to value what we have done, appreciate how courageous we have been and give ourselves credit for our achievements.