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Most people like to have a fuss made on their birthday. That is true whether it’s a 60th birthday or a 6th. Our idea of a party may change over time, but what doesn’t change is wanting to celebrate with the people we care about. It’s even better if our loved ones show how much they care by planning a big bash, at least for the milestones. What on earth, you might wonder, would make a good 60th birthday theme? It might surprise you.
The three best parts about getting older, I’ve found, are first, that you know what you like and what works for you. Second, you tend to care less — a lot less — about what other people think. Finally, the passing of time gives many of us an adventurous spirit and a desire to try new things that we were either too busy or too self-conscious to try out earlier in life. So if you’re planning a loved one’s 60th birthday party, keep these things in mind.
The Significance of the 60th Birthday
In Japan, the 60th birthday is called kanreki. The word is made up of two kanji, which, together mean “the years complete a circle.” Not only does this birthday mark the completion of one cycle, but it also means rebirth and new beginnings. Traditionally, people give the person celebrating a birthday a red garment that symbolizes joy. The modern-day celebration focuses on gratitude for that person’s accomplishments. China has a similar belief. In South Korea, the 60th birthday is likewise important, and people celebrate with huge parties and extravagant feasts.
Your 60th birthday party doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it should be special. And the best way to do that is to have it reflect what is special about the person you’re celebrating.
60th Birthday Party Themes
Themes give a party a structure and a focal point. Party themes for small children are easier. Often you only have to think about the child’s favorite licensed character and go from there. But a 60th birthday party needs to focus on the individual. Who are they? What do they enjoy? And most of all, what do they mean to you?
Themes for a 60th birthday party come down to more than just colors for streamers and flavors of cake. If you’re celebrating someone’s kanreki, you want to do it right. Don’t just put up some balloons and call it a day. Make their party an experience. Make it fun, make it social, make it different. And most of all, make it unforgettable.
Remember the theme of rebirth? The 60th birthday is a great time to try out new ideas, hobbies, and activities. Has your guest of honor ever talked about trying out something specific, but they never found the time? Well, that time is now, and here are a few things your celebrator and your guests might enjoy.
An art class
“Paint and sip” evenings have become popular for dates and friends’ nights out. How does it work? Well, different companies and groups sell tickets to a night with an artist. The night includes paints, a canvas, wine, snacks, and, most importantly, a teacher. The teacher is often a working artist. The teacher usually brings a painting and teaches participants how to paint that particular picture. The fun is in trying something new — and in seeing what your friends come up with.
You can book a Paint and Sip class for your participants as part of your party. Maybe make it a stop between drinks and dinner at your guest of honor’s favorite restaurant. Alternately, you can hire a painting teacher, cartoonist, or another artist to come to you and teach your guests a fun new skill. If painting isn’t your thing — or theirs — you can try one of these:
- Voice coach
- Crafter (scrapbooking, artist trading cards, etc.)
The great thing is, all of your guests will have something to take home with them as a souvenir — that, and the memory of a fun and unique event.
Cooking classes are a popular activity for people of all ages. Cooking competition shows like Master Chef are popular as well. For a lot of us, cooking every day is a chore. We churn out passable things to feed our families. For this reason, learning to craft something tasty, attractive, and special can be a rare treat.
A cooking-themed party offers a couple of different options for a fun, unique and memorable 60th birthday party. First, you can hire a chef, caterer, or cooking teacher to lead your guests in preparing your guest of honor’s favorite food. Alternately, you could prepare a menu, buy ingredients, and make up recipe cards for everyone to cook a multi-course meal to eat together. You could also host a friendly cooking competition among your guests and award prizes for the best dish.
It doesn’t have to be fancy — although it can be. Making homemade pizza, for example, is easier than a lot of people think, from the dough to a range of unique and tasty sauces. Craft a salad, and grab some drinks, and you’re good to go.
Adventures to Remember
A new beginning is a great time for an adventure. Why not take your friends and loved ones with you? What does adventure mean to your guest of honor? Something active and outdoorsy? Something relaxing and pleasant? A trip into the city for a once-in-a-lifetime cultural event? No matter how your guest of honor defines adventure, crafting a party around it can be a great time for everyone.
If you live in a bicycle-friendly area — and if weather permits — why not plan your party around a short bicycle trip? It’s an active, social way for your guest of honor to spend time with friends and loved ones, enjoying the great outdoors. Use a planning tool like Cycle to Travel to plan your route. You could also take advantage of municipal bike paths or designated bike routes. How about one of these?
- Cycle to a park and bring a picnic
- Do a bike tour of your guest of honor’s favorite places
- Choose a charity bike ride to enter as a team
A cycling party can be as athletic or as easygoing as your guest of honor wants it to be. But more than that, it can be a memorable way to celebrate a memorable day.
A grown-up beach party
Beach parties aren’t just for college students, and yours doesn’t have to include loud music, too much alcohol, or sunburn. You can have a beach party for grown-ups, too. If you live near a beach, it’s a wonderful way to provide a gorgeous backdrop for your party without spending a lot of time or money. And if you don’t live near a beach, why not create one in your back yard, or even inside your home?
What can you do on the beach besides catching rays and dipping your toes in the water? How about:
- Cooking the birthday dinner on a barbecue
- Badminton or beach volleyball
- Rent tables, chairs, and a pop-up beach shelter
- Hire a caterer and servers (if allowed) for a sophisticated touch
If you’re going to have a beach party, make sure to check your area’s regulations, especially regarding alcohol, glass containers, facilities reservations, and closing times.
A day or evening in the city
If your guest of honor is more of a city mouse, they might love a day or a night on the town to celebrate their 60th birthday. Start out with drinks at a favorite bar or coffee house, or, for the adventurous, somewhere they’ve never been to. Then move on to an activity. What about one of these?
- Museum exhibit
- Play or opera
- Live music at a club
Then on to dinner. Will it be an elegant meal with crystal glasses and fawning waiters? Or perhaps a meal at that trendy new restaurant? Or something warm and friendly at your guest of honor’s favorite family restaurant? The only limit is your imagination.
A cozy getaway
If big parties aren’t your guest of honor’s favorite thing, how about an intimate getaway for a small group of friends? You could plan a day trip or a weekend away at a bed and breakfast. Dress it up or dress it down, as long as your guest of honor is surrounded by their loved ones, in a pleasant place, spending their time exactly the way they want to.
There’s nothing wrong with a traditional “come to ours for a party” party. The great news is, you can jazz up a 60th birthday with any number of themes that don’t require a huge amount of planning and won’t break the bank.
A tasting party
My husband and I love to throw parties, and one of our favorite themes is a tasting party. This theme is a contest where your guests sample a number of different varieties of a certain food or drink, and rank them according to criteria you have set out (“most expensive to least expensive” or “highest rated to lowest rated”). The person who guesses closest to the host’s answers wins a prize.
We started with wine, but you don’t have to. In fact, the wilder and more unique your theme, the better. Here are some of the tastings we’ve hosted:
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- hot sauce
What you’ll need.
The food or drink can be whatever you like. It’s the format that’s important. The format gives your party structure, gives your guests something to talk about, and gives everyone something to look forward to at the end. Here’s what you’ll need:
- pencils or pens
- sheets for “tasting notes”
- a box to collect the submissions
- individual servings of your target food or drink, marked A, B, C, etc.
- a “key” to which item is which (only the judge will know which is which)
Place your tasting items on a central table, where everyone can access them at their leisure. We’ve found a good number of items is five — five kinds of hot sauce, five kinds of chocolate, etc. Make sure to remove all labels, and mark each item with A, B, C, etc. Finally, place your tasting notes sheets, pencils and pens, and the box there as well.
How to play
When all your guests have arrived, explain the rules. Over the course of the party, they are to wander over to the tasting table and sample the tasting items. Then, on their tasting notes sheets, they will rank the items, put their names on their sheets, then place the sheets in the box. This game is a great way to get the conversation flowing, and for people who don’t know each other well to get acquainted. Make sure to tell your guests that teamwork and discussing their opinions are more than welcome!
Toward the end of the party, gather everyone together and go through the entries. The guest (or guests) who guess closest to the host’s rankings will win a prize.
Modern kanreki celebrations often focus on the accomplishments of the guest of honor. A fun way to do this is with an awards ceremony, or, if your guest of honor has a really good sense of humor, a lighthearted roast. An awards night not only tells the guest of honor what they mean to their loved ones, but it also provides an opportunity to dress up and be a star for the night.
The great thing about an awards ceremony is you can pitch it any way you like. You can make it fancy — at a hotel or restaurant, with caterers and entertainment — or a low-key event at your home. It could be serious or silly, or a little of both. You could let the guest of honor know what’s going to be happening, or you could make it a total surprise.
What you’ll need
A week or two before the party, you’ll need to ask your guests to come up with a list of things to say about the guest of honor. These could be memories, anecdotes, or what they perceive as that person’s greatest qualities. They could write them down or email them to you.
If you’re really ambitious and have the technology at hand, you could prepare a PowerPoint slide show with every guest’s input. You could also make posters or simply type or write everything out neatly, to be given later to the guest of honor.
Closer to the date, purchase award certificates or party-favor trophies. Personalize them. While you’re purchasing supplies, look for other awards ceremony trappings, like a tinsel curtain.
How to proceed
Once everyone has arrived, let them seat themselves. The Master of Ceremonies — that is, you — will welcome everyone and tell everyone what to expect. If you’re planning to serve a meal, do this next.
After the meal, the host will call the guest of honor to the front of the room. One by one, people who have prepared a memory or award will stand up and address the room. Some of the things they might share include:
- A special anecdote or memory involving the guest of honor
- Something they appreciate about the guest of honor
- The guest of honor’s accomplishments
At this point, the guest will present the guest of honor with a token of appreciation: a personalized trophy, a certificate, or a copy of their story or anecdote.
This will be one kanreki no one will ever forget.
Here’s to New Beginnings!
In many cultures, the 60th birthday marks the completion of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. Just as a coming of age ceremony celebrates the transition from childhood to adulthood, the 60th birthday, too, celebrates a sort of rebirth. It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments, try new things, and look forward to the joys and successes that lie ahead. How will you make it special for your guest of honor?