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Happy Birthday! A Longevity Celebration

At 70 you are but a child, at 80 you are merely a youth,
and at 90 if the ancestors invite you into heaven,
ask them to wait until you are 100 and then you might consider it.

-Ancient Okinawan Proverb

According to Asian tradition, life begins again at age 60!

So, what makes the 60th birthday so special? Basically, it marks the completion of the honoree’s 60-year cycle around the Chinese zodiac, which begins all over again in their 61st year. The 60th birthday, which is called “kanreki” or “honke-gaeri”, marks a return to the original calendar cycle and the beginning of one’s second life or rebirth.

The “kanreki” celebration is traditionally hosted by the sons and daughters, and in many cases grandchildren, to honor their father or mother. Since this occasion signifies a return to childhood, it is customary for the honoree to celebrate their newfound childhood by dressing as babies do, wearing red garments, such as a bouffant cap, a sleeveless vest or a haori (Japanese coat), and socks. In Japanese the color red is “aka” and “akachan” means “red one” or baby. Thus, wearing red symbolizes that the honoree has been reborn as a baby and is beginning their next 60-year cycle.

Dressed in these red garments, the birthday “boy” or “girl” takes the seat of honor, receiving well wishes from family and friends for a happy new life and many more years of joy. The guests give carefully selected gifts, many of which have been prepared years before.

“Kanreki” festivities range from extremely elaborate to very modest, yet financial means are never an obstacle to holding such special celebrations. Asian children, grandchildren and other relatives take great pride in honoring the older people within their families and rejoicing in their health, happiness, wisdom, and longevity.

During their 60th year, the honoree is expected to reflect on their life, examine their past achievements, and set new goals for their second 60-year journey. This is a valuable exercise when celebrating any birthday!

Beyond “kanreki”, these birthdays also enjoy special celebrations: "Koki" – age 70; "Kiju" – age 77;
"Beijuage" – age 88; "Sotsuju" – age 90; "Kajimaya" – age 97 ; "Hakuju" – age 99 ; "Hyakusai No Ga" age – 100.

BIRTHDAY TIP: Instead of an ordinary birthday party, throw a longevity bash and celebrate the good fortune of having wisdom, health, friendship, and happiness!