* Chapters celebrate the Red Hat Society's birthday with special events and an "official" holiday: Red Hat Society Day, held each April 25.

* The "reduation" ceremony recognizes each 50th birthday as a magical milestone, and celebrators are presented with new red hats.

* During a Red Hatter's birthday month, she wears reverse colors -- a purple hat and red clothing -- to all Red Hat functions, which often feature special recognition of all birthday honorees.

* "The kazoo is our official instrument," founder Sue Ellen Cooper says, "because it's equal opportunity and you don't need to be able to play an instrument" to hum a tune on it. It's often used to accompany a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" (see above).

* The "queenly wave" -- consisting of cupping one's hand with fingers together while gently swiveling one's wrist back and forth -- is the official Red Hat Society greeting. Members also practice "brim-brushing," gently touching hat brims against each other, as hugging often causes hats to fall off!

* The society encourages members to devise royal titles for themselves. For instance, Hell's Belle Stevie Young, who usually dons multiple pieces from her extensive collection of vintage costume jewelry, uses the moniker Dame Sparkles Plenty. Hell's Belles Pink Hatter Rhonda Clement, a dog lover, calls herself the Countess of Canines.

* "We always read the poem" ("Warning," by Jenny Joseph) to open a gathering, says Margie Ethridge of the Red Hat Boomer Babes of Woodbridge. The group also offers a prayer to "thank God for our good times that we can have together."

-- Mary Jane Solomon