FAST FACTS: Celebrating Anniversaries Made Easy
Wednesday, February 2, 2011


By Reference Librarian Jolee Hamlin
In 1922, Emily Post published the first known list of traditional anniversary presents and gift categories. Originally, the etiquette guru listed gifts only for the first, fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversaries. By 1957, Post had expanded her anniversary list to include every year from the 1st to the 15th, and for every fifth year after that.
Her list went something like this:
Anniversary Gift
First Paper
Second Cotton
Third Leather
Fourth Fruit or Flowers
Fifth Wood
Sixth Candy / Iron
Seventh Wool / Cooper
Eighth Bronze / Pottery
Ninth Pottery / Willow
Tenth Tin / Aluminum
Various updates have since been made to Post's list, including adding years sixteen through nineteen. 
Although Post's list may have been the first and most well-known attempt to formalize an anniversary  gift-giving guide, the tradition of giving specific anniversary gifts based on years married dates back to the Middle Ages.  So how relevant are such lists anymore? Does anyone still follow this tradition, or is it an antiquated, quaint idea from a bygone era? 
As is the case with most pressing questions (and every question is a pressing question at the reference desk), the answer depends on who you ask. At the very least people continue to look for gift-giving and celebration advice. Indeed, Post's original celebration list has expanded to include both traditional and modern categories, in addition to assistance for flower or bling (gem) inspired givers. 
For example, an eighth anniversary celebrant can choose the traditional bronze or pottery, or can take a modernized (or is that scandalized?) update with lace or linen. If flowers are preferred, clematis is the suggested kind. A jewel -inspired festivity should opt for a tourmaline or tanzanite. As you go further (or is that higher?) on the list, options dwindle. Gifts for a 45th anniversary include the traditional sapphire, the modern sapphire, or the gem, which is-you guessed it!-sapphire. 
A complete list of anniversaries and their respective gift giving listing is available at several websites including (choose “by occasion”) or  AnniversaryGift is especially good for offering gift thoughts with a fresh twist, or for years with bizarre themes. I am celebrating my tenth this year, which lists aluminum (of all things) as the traditional gift. Now I know that a nice aluminum watch may fit the bill, but also an aluminum sundial, a pop can crusher (for the eco-inspired celebrant), some “bad” biker sunglasses, or  wind chimes made from recycled aluminum. 
If you are neither an anniversary gift-giver nor receiver, do not despair! The library offers several newer books with any celebration in mind, whether you prefer a modern, traditional or jeweled approach.
Afternoon teas: homemade bakes & party cakes / Valerie Ferguson
Big bad-ass book of cocktails : 1,500 recipes to mix it up! / by Paul Knorr. 
Daisy : morning, noon, and night : bringing your family together with everyday Latin dishes / Daisy Martinez with Chris Styler ; photographs by Joseph De Leo
Emily Post's great get-togethers : casual gatherings & elegant parties at home / Anna Post & Lizzie Post ; photographs by Sara Remington
The games bible : over 300 games--the rules, the gear, the strategies / by Leigh Anderson
Gourmet game night : bite-sized, mess-free eating for board-game parties, bridge clubs, poker nights, book groups, and more / by Cynthia Nims, photography by Sheri Giblin.
Hungry girl happy hour : 75 recipes for amazingly fantastic guilt-free cocktails and party foods / Lisa Lillien
Kids' cakes from the whimsical bakehouse and other treats for colorful celebrations / Liv Hansen & Kaye Hansen ; photographs by Ben Fink
Princess party cookbook : over 100 delicious recipes and fun ideas / Annabel Karmel
Quick and easy vegan celebrations / Alicia C. Simpson.
The ultimate appetizers book : more than 450 no-fuss nibbles and drinks : plus simple party planning tips 
You can do tea / written and illustrated by Sandy Lynam Clough.

The Capital Area District Library Reference Department is located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue in Lansing, MI. Contact them at 517-367-6346 or by e-mail at

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