Americans: Masters of Celebration

Friends and family gathered at a birthday party in a garden.
A brightly lit small-town Christmas display on the village square.
Friends lining up for a photo on sweet sixteen with the sixteen-year-old birthday girl in the center.
Teenagers, including the tiara-wearing birthday girl, busting a move on the dance floor during sweet sixteen celebrations.
Appreciative military veterans watch as soldiers parade in the veterans’ honor.
One or two military veterans in a car saluting bystanders.
A group of young children waving American flags as a way to say thank you to their country’s military veterans.
An orchestra playing trumpets on Veterans Day.
Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard parading along Fifth Avenue in New York City on Veterans Day.

Americans know how to celebrate in style, and often go all in on days like birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This usually means that decorations are used in abundance and that the person to be celebrated is showered with gifts and affection. For Americans, there is seldom a reason not to have a party, and cakes, hugs and photos abound whenever friends and families meet for festivities. The American style of partying, moreover, is typically loud and proud, which is somewhat different from the behavior of both Canadians and Britons, who generally are more socially restrained.

Sweet sixteen

One of many important celebrations in the United States is sweet sixteen, which refers to a girl’s — or on rare occasions, a boy’s — sixteenth birthday. This day is seen as a milestone in a teenager’s life, and marks the day when they come of age and grow to near adults. Even so, Americans who think of their sixteenth birthday as any other birthday, of course, exist too, but many teenagers and families do go above and beyond to make the day really count. This extra effort often means decorating with balloons, streamers and banners — and to families with economic resources or connections: lavish gifts, dance parties and even hired DJs. What the birthday celebrants then concretely celebrate, regardless of arrangements, is the many new freedoms their age entails. Sixteen years of age, for example, is the age of consent in many American states, and also an age where teenagers in most parts of the U.S. can apply for a driver’s license for the first time.

Veterans Day

Another important American event is Veterans Day. This day, November 11 every year, all of the people who have served in the country’s armed forces are honored. As tradition holds, this means that current and former military personnel dress up in their military uniforms and parade down city streets accompanied by marching bands. During the parades, military servicemen and veterans alike are saluted by cheering crowds, and it is not uncommon to see emotional, almost tearful, men in their 70s and 80s receive appreciative ovations.