There are those milestone birthdays we've all, whether via family, friends or our immediate culture, been taught to celebrate. Think 16th, 21st, 30th and 40th. All big ones, right?  

According to Ranker, celebrities like Gigi Hadid spent her 21st birthday it utter style, having not one, but two opulent parties, in two different cities (LA and Vegas) the model partied it up. Now while it is perhaps the expectation for us to spend our 'age defining' birthdays, like our 16th, our 21st and our 30th and 40th partying it up, it's also not for everyone. 

READ MORE: Inside Bonang’s 30th birthday celebration 

Taylor Swift apparently just hung out with her folks on her 21st. 

Then there are celebs like Bonang, who had the most EXTRA 30th birthday party ever last year, but opted for #B31 aka round 2 this year for her 31st. Claiming that every year is, and can in fact be special and should be celebrated. The years punctuated certain times in your life, and leaves us to consider the year that's passed, and the year, and experiences to come. 

..tonight was perfect. Wow!! ?????????????? #B31

A post shared by Bonang Matheba (@bonang_m) on

But not all celebrations are equal. Often, the celebration is more for others than for you... 

"I was thrown a big party for my 21st, but it was a massive let-down. I had very little say in what happened with anything and I hated my dress and everything just was over so quickly when it had been months of arguing with my mom about what I wanted (which I didn’t get anyway) and what would happen. She wanted to plan the party she wanted and I was just supposed to attend. I at least got to see a lot of my relatives and friends and danced a bit, but overall I think I should have done something different."  - Jamie

Low-key is also good...

"For my 21st birthday, my friends threw a surprise day for me and we went to a concert. I got to wear a birthday sash and a tiara all day. It wasn’t anything extravagant but it meant a lot to me ‘cause I spent it with my favourite women. It wasn’t planning on doing anything for that day but my friends made it pretty awesome." – Thobe

"A month after I turned 16 I went to Sun City with my cousin and a few friends. We went for the annual Spring Break-type event that happens there. The day time activities were fun but at 16 you want to do a little more than chill at Valley of Waves but that’s we had to do because we were underage for the night time activities – probably why our parents let us go."  - Lebo

READ MORE: This is why your goals don’t have an expiry date 

"For my 21st I had pizza and some drinks with my closest friends. I prefer small groups instead of having all the attention and limelight on me. It was lovely, and I wouldn't ever trade it for a big, expensive, over-the-top bash." - Louise

"One of my best memories would have to be my 30th Birthday. I had an intimate dinner with all of my close friends and I had just started dating my (now) fiancé. 
Everything about it was special and I could feel that 30 was my time to shine. And to be honest, things have only gotten better." - Nicol 

Others want to celebrate in style...

"For my 21st birthday I had a high tea in the garden of my high school. It was beautiful and everyone wore white. My high school is situated in the company gardens in Cape Town.  Gardens commercial high school. 

"For my 30th I’d actually like to book a trip to one of my bucket list places. Like Greece or New York. Where they have great night life." - Jade


"Turning 30 wasn't so bad (*as I am now 36 years old), with my family and friends spoiling me all day and presents and messages from loved ones making me feel very special. What better way to spend your 30th birthday than with a weekend getaway to Cape Town. The weekend was the time to truly celebrate, spending a long weekend with some of the best people in my life namely my sister and daughter.

"On Thursday the journey to Cape Town started with an easy flight trip with our bags, my two favourite people. The hotel was perfect for my 30th birthday, looking down onto the V & A Waterfront; with the spectacular ocean and harbour views….it was the perfect place for a fun girl’s weekend. I knew I wanted somewhere with a little bit of everything to offer, somewhere we could all enjoy ourselves without even needing to travel to far, and Cape Town truly exceeded my expectations. If you are looking for something pleasant yet grand, stylish and serene, comfortable yet retreat-like, it really covers all the bases.

"I was so appreciative for my family that went out of their way to make my 30th birthday weekend so magnificent. I only saw a small glimpse of what Cape Town has to offer but, overall, my “girl gang” and I had an incredible time and I really look forward to the next time I am able to make another trip and explore a little more!"- Megs

""I am about 9 months away from my 30th birthday and I’ve decided to fulfill a long-time dream to visit Japan. I’m so looking forward to exploring a country I’ve been fascinated with for such a long time and for marking a milestone birthday with sushi, sake and way too much ramen!"- Sarah 

Why do we find it important to celebrate milestones? 

Celebrating, in general, has many benefits. Whether it's a sweet 16, the World Cup, a bar mitzvah or ulwaluko, we all have come to define the act of celebrating differently. Not only for your mental health and general happiness, but in that it cements community and family bonds. 

Local psychologist, Samuel Waumsley says "The big birthdays of 21, 30, 40 represent personal life milestones. I think for all of us, often representing our moving into new 'phases of life'. This concept of maturing is central in psychotherapy in considering how we all face these challenges as we grow up and older. What's interesting is the challenges inherent in different life phases are very similar for each of us; these are human challenges and changes. 

READ MORE: What really goes down at a traditional Xhosa wedding

"Not usually celebrating 'coming of age' culturally anymore in the West, 16 or 21 represents this becoming an adult for us, and if we choose it to be and have the opportunity it's a positive way of celebrating a young person's newfound adulthood and is important culturally and personally to them in showing regard and support for them. As we grow older milestones become something different and sometimes personally challenging or stressful but also again if we have the opportunity for us to be celebrated and love shown to us by those in our lives that's positive."

So go on and celebrate yours and others milestones (in whichever way you and they prefer), it's great for your overall health!

 Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.