40th Birthday Party Traditions

My sister turns forty (40) years old this month!  In American culture, we often have a birthday party to celebrate the forty years lived. The year that you turn forty is a milestone, or an important event that marks many years lived and many more to come.

In these forty years, my sister was born, grew up, went to school, went to college, fell in love, fell out of love, traveled, went to graduate school, fell in love again, got married, bought a house, got a dog, taught Chinese, taught English, sold a house, bought another house, lived in over 10 states, and so much more.  My sister still has so many years to accomplish much more: teach more English, help students, make an impact on them, maybe sell and buy another house, travel more, and fall more in love.

Since it is such an important birthday to celebrate, many adults that don’t normally have a birthday party will often have one to celebrate their fortieth birthday! For these birthday parties, there are some American traditions that often happen, although a 40th birthday party does not have to have these traditions. These traditions joke or play with the idea that the person is closer to death than they were before. But remember – they are all jokes or teasing.

Let’s look at some of the traditions that Americans usually have at fortieth birthday parties.

The Color Black

Often the color black is used at fortieth birthday parties in relation to the idea that the person is closer to death. This can include black balloons, black napkins, black plates, or black decorations. Often people at the party may dress in black clothing as well.

StofelaEnglish - 40th birthday (2)

Over the Hill

“Over the hill” is a phrase that refers to the milestone or halfway point of life. At forty years, you are usually halfway through your life. The hill refers to the halfway point. Once you’re over the hill, you have passed the halfway point.

At parties, you may see decorations that refer to over the hill. People may tell the birthday person congratulations for getting over the hill.

StofelaEnglish - 40th birthday (1)


In the continued idea that the birthday person is closer to dying, decorations at the party may use cemeteries or headstones for graves. The decorations tease the birthday person even more that they’re close to dying, now that they’re forty years old.

StofelaEnglish - 40th birthday (3)

Mushy Foods

Mushy means something that is soft, that when you push with your finger or with a spoon, it gives way. It doesn’t resist the pressure. Mushy foods are often used at fortieth birthday party in order to tease the birthday person that they will lose their teeth soon. Since they won’t have teeth, they will have to eat foods that don’t require teeth for chewing or biting. Such foods may be mashed potatoes, bananas, pudding, or smoothies.

StofelaEnglish - 40th birthday (4)


Have you been to a fortieth birthday party? I can’t wait to see the pictures of my sister’s birthday party to see which American traditions they use!

StofelaEnglish Signature

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s