WORLDPOST

The Netherlands In A Hundred Birthdays

06/16/2015 02:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

When award-winning artist Ilvy Njiokiktjien was appointed as the Netherlands' "Photographer of the Nation" in 2013, she turned to the one event that excites each and every one of us: birthday celebrations.

Njiokiktjien photographed 100 people in the Netherlands, ranging from age 1 to 100, as they celebrated their birthdays with friends, family members and strangers. Her photos are set in bars, at home, children's parties, outside or at the office. They show young and old indulge in cake, open presents and blow out candles.

Njiokiktjien's images were collected for Schilt Publishing in the book Cream Cakes and Paper Chains: The Netherlands in 100 Birthdays.

"It's in our blood, it's such a recognizable part of our culture: from high to low, rich to poor, in the end, we all celebrate our birthday more or less in the same way," Schilt Publishing aptly summarizes.

Take a look at some of Njiokiktjien's 100 images below:

  • Joy, 1
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Joy celebrates her first birthday at home in Utrecht.
  • Ampharo, 4
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Ampharo on her fourth birthday at her preschool in Rotterdam. She wears a Minnie Mouse paper hat, a tradition in schools in the Netherlands.
  • Sofie, 7
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    The seventh birthday of Sofie, celebrated in Oterleek. Sofie's parents hired a party planner who specializes in birthday parties for kids. The theme of the party was Marie Antoinette.
  • Danijal, 10
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Danijal celebrated his 10th birthday with his classmates in Ridderkerk. His family is from the Moluccas. The kids danced a traditional Moluccan dance, the "jospan." They also danced to disco music as the theme of the evening was "disco."
  • Lara, 15
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Lara on her 15th birthday in the backyard of her father's home in Haarlem. Lara celebrated her birthday together with her father, but spent most of her time with her friends in a big tent in the backyard. They talked about boys all night.
  • Anne, 26
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Anne celebrated her 26th birthday with a boat trip through the historic canals of Amsterdam. "I suffered from a burnout for a year, so my birthday was not only a birthday, but also a 'rebirth day.' It felt like starting over again and it was great to have so many friends surrounding me on this beautiful day."
  • Ellen, 30
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    The 30th birthday party of Christiane and her friend Ellen was celebrated in a bar in Amsterdam. "We are both originally from the south of the Netherlands, where carnival is really big. That is why we decided to have a superhero party. Everybody had to dress up like a superhero. It was a great way to celebrate that life is not too serious yet."
  • Petra, 49
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Petra on her birthday at the pharmaceutical company Simed International in Utrecht. It is a Dutch tradition that co-workers decorate the desk of the birthday celebrant. "It was a weird day, not only because of the desk, but also because of the day of national mourning, because of flight MH17 that crashed before my birthday."
  • Thecla, 55
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    "I had two outfits for my birthday, one in gold and one in purple. In Surinam, where I am from, it is tradition to celebrate your 50th in yellow, gold, and your 60th in purple. Because I am right in the middle, I decided to have both colors. There were at least 150 people at my birthday and we sang 'A di mi yere yu friyari,' a happy birthday song."
  • Tiny, 65
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    "My husband arranged a surprise birthday for me. He invited friends, neighbors and family to Kamerik, a farming town. We played farm games all day, one of them being 'wooden shoe golf.' You get an old Dutch wooden shoe, a clog, attached to a stick. The trick was to use that to get a ball into a hole, just like real golf. It was quite difficult. I was horribly bad at the game but we had a great time. It was nice being out in the polder landscape, real Dutch nature."
  • Willem, 80
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Willem celebrated his 80th birthday in the dunes close to Wijk aan Zee. "Three times a week we run with a group through the dunes of Wijk aan Zee. We have been doing this for years. I usually set the route, but on my birthday the group told me I had to follow their route. They took me to this bench. It had a very special sign on it, with my name. I was speechless. The bench is now seen by everybody who passes it while walking or running. What an honor."
  • Roelof, 84
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Roelof celebrated his 84th birthday in the care facility Talma Hiem in Balk. "My wife has got dementia, in an early stage. When we got dressed into our nice clothes on the morning of my birthday, she thought we were dressing up for church. She can be very confused at times. I had six brothers, five sisters, of whom one is my twin sister. I only have three brothers and my twin left, the rest of them passed away. I always worked as a farmer, but in my younger days I was a craftsman and made wooden Dutch shoes by hand. They were called 'Akkerman wooden shoes.' It was a family business and everybody around owned a pair."
  • Louisa, 85
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Louisa celebrates her 85th birthday in Nieuwegein. "I have lived in Nieuwegein for 34 years. I have seen my neighbor kids grow up. I don't want to leave this town, it is great. Originally, I am from Surinam, but I moved in the '80s, to see my grandchild more. Not all of my kids were at my party this year, but they were all there when I turned 80."
  • Hans, 86
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    "I organized a bridge drive on my birthday. My friends and I love to play bridge. I also organized a happy hour and a dinner. My friends and I came from Indonesia to the Netherlands in 1948. Most of us have had good jobs: doctors, lawyers and so on. We did not have the chance to do higher education in Indonesia; that is why we came to the Netherlands, to study. During our time at the university we had many parties, always in smoking [jackets]. That is why we still celebrate in style."
  • Riet, 90
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Riet celebrates her 90th birthday at a Chinese restaurant in Warnsveld. "To become old is fun, but to actually be old is less fun. Everybody is excited to be alive, but people above 80 always have some trouble with their health. I do too, my heart is not good. My husband, who celebrated his birthday together with me -- he turned 89 -- is becoming forgetful. But the most important thing on my birthday was to be surrounded by my family. It was beautiful."
  • Tebiena, 91
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Tebiena celebrates her 91st birthday in Zuidlaren. "When I was a little girl and I used to hear a motorcycle, I would get off my bike and stop to listen and see the motorcycle pass by. I was always amazed by the sound, it is great. It was my big dream to once ride a motorbike. My kids knew this and arranged a ride in a motorcycle with a sidecar for my 91th birthday! It was amazing, although the wind hurt my ears a bit. We drove past everything that is of any importance in my life. The farm where I lived and worked with my husband when he was still alive. We drove through town, it was amazing. I remembered my life at the farm, it was always tough, but beautiful."
  • Reinder, 100
    Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Reinder celebrated his 100th birthday in Veendam.
  • Ilvy Njiokiktjien
    Cream Cake and Paper Chains: The Netherlands in 100 Birthdays was published in 2014 by Schilt Publishing.
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