The first formal ball was celebrated in 1925, though no records exist that indicate the proceedings of that event. Birthday celebrations would take varied forms, most included dances, though some accounts include mock battles, musical performances, pageants, and sporting events.
The celebrations were formalized and standardized by Commandant Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. in 1952, outlining the cake cutting ceremony, which would enter the Marine Drill Manual in 1956. By tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines passing their knowledge to the new generation of Marines. The celebration also includes a reading of Marine Corps Order 47, republished every year, as well as a message from the current Commandant, and often includes a banquet and dancing if possible. In many cases, the birthday celebration will also include a pageant of current and historical Marine Corps uniforms, as a reminder of the history of the Corps. Another modern tradition includes a unit run on the 10th. Marines are reputed to celebrate the birthday, regardless of where they may be in the world, even in austere environments or combat.
"Chesty" Puller -1950
In a more somber tradition, Samuel Nicholas's grave in the Arch Street Friends Meeting graveyard in Philadelphia is marked with a wreath at dawn by a group of Marines annually on November 10 to celebrate his role in the founding of the Corps.
Harry B. Liversedge with the Marine Raiders in the South Pacific - 1943
Franklin A. Hart cuts a cake for The Basic School while David M. Shoup looks on in 1951. Note that this cake has candles.
"Chesty" Puller and "Howlin' Mad" Smith - 1953