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Explainer: Anniversaries

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| Mar 5, 2010
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People have always held a certain sentimentality for special dates. Companies celebrate their foundation date. Everyone celebrates their birthday. [firstpara] And sweet, teenage couples never forget to celebrate their “monthsaries,” lest they want a huge fight, and subsequently, a breakup.

Even magazines celebrate anniversaries, and just a couple days ago, we at FHM Philippines celebrated our 10th anniversary. Or to be more of a geek about it, we celebrated our decennial. So now, why don’t we take a look at the exciting world of anniversaries?

I’m interested in the etymology of the word ‘anniversary.’

‘Anniversary,’ like most fancy words, is Latin in origin. Anniversary is derived from the dead language’s word anniversarius which literally means ‘for year’ and ‘to turn.’

But ‘for year’ and ‘to turn’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If you look at most Latin terms translated directly to English, they wouldn’t make a lot of sense. It’s like a puzzle, see? And fortunately some smart guys have deciphered it. The less incomprehensible meaning of anniversarius is ‘returning yearly,’ or to remember yearly, an important date.

When did all this fascination for ‘anniversaries’ start?
The word ‘anniversary’ was first used for Catholic feasts and the commemoration of holy saints. But way before those times, ancient Rome already had a word for anniversary: Aquilae natalis.

Continue reading below ↓

In ancient Latin times, the phrase dies natalis was used. This time the phrase directly translates to something readily understandable. It means birthday.

How about those other words such centennial, bicentennial, and FHM’s decennial?
Centennial is usually used to commemorate the founding of the nation, or the independence day of a country. For example, the Philippines celebrated its centennial in 1998, which if you didn’t know, was a hundred years after we got our independence back from the Spaniards.

The U.S. meanwhile celebrated its bicentennial in 1976. And that is why we rely on the United States like it were some sort of big brother.

For monarchies, the term used to signify a momentous anniversary is ‘jubilee.’


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