In 2008 we had our fair share of family celebrations which bordered on the financially absurd. One could not have contrived to have an 18th, 21st and 50th birthday milestones all in the same year. It made me wonder just how important these dates are and why we attach so much significance to them. Indeed, these days people need reassurance that, for example, 40 is the new ‘30’, or that 50 is the new’40’. Perhaps this is a last-ditch attempt to reassure the birthday boy or girl that life is endless and each passing year brings with it only joy and wisdom. After all, age is a relative thing imposed by people by people from the time we are born: in reality it means absolutely nothing. I’m sure that our cat has no perception of how old he is and, quite frankly, why should he care? Although I have to admit that I love the thought of going to a birthday ‘bash’: the present, card, taxi, cake, disco, and buffet, bar, dancing and above all happy smiling familiar faces. The escape from reality is such relief. Just good old-fashioned ‘going out to have a good time’. I believe that it’s important for us all to have good memories of the things we do today and I think that’s why we continue to celebrate these events with such gusto. Yet sometimes I can’t help but think that our need for escape or to celebrate, has led us sleepwalking into the trap of massive commercial enterprise. Do we really need to celebrate everything with equal enthusiasm? Christmas is the race to see which major high street stores will be the first to have a Christmas tree in their window. This mayhem will be closely followed by the New Year celebrations, and then its on with Saint Valentine’s Day. Add these to all the birthdays, Easter, weddings, anniversaries. mothers and father’s days, engagements, Halloween, graduations, the newly added Prom and summer holidays and I find it remarkable that we have any money left over for paying the household bills or running the odd car or two. Of course excuses for spending on a ‘do’ of any description are in abundance. ‘It’s only money’, ‘you’re only young once’, again the list could go on. None of us wants to be perceived as being ‘tight’ with our cash, perhaps, but behind closed doors we are all still responsible for picking up the bill for having a good time. Maybe the challenge should be devising ways of celebrating anything but without pandering quite so much to materialism. Could it be possible that this would be the key to a longer life where being 50 is simply that. Nothing more, nothing less.