This post first appeared Sept 5, 2012. We just did Leap Day. Did you celebrate?
We tend to save our non-holiday celebration efforts for rare occasions–college graduations, golden wedding anniversaries, and the like. That’s too bad because celebrating is good for all of us—both the person being feted and those doing the hurrah. It’s not always necessary to make it a big elaborate deal either.
In the last two weeks, I have been to a wedding, a funeral, and two birthday parties. Let’s start with the wedding.
This is one of those official “rare occasions” but these kids were onto something a lot of us miss when planning that event. This wedding was definitely designed to be a party. The young couple was happy to be committing to each other and wanted everyone to be happy with them. Our job as guests for the evening: Have a good time.
Even the ceremony itself, performed by a funny yet legally authorized friend, was light hearted. Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, but frequently, they become high-stress, major productions. Instead of a fun party, you end up observing an unfolding effort to make everything go perfectly. Leave the big productions for Bollywood. Whatever you want to celebrate, focus on the fun rather than the fanfare.
The funeral was for a relative who died at the age of 85 after several years of horrible health. In my younger years, funerals were solemn events full of fervent prayer for the person who’d died. Now we celebrate life rather than mourning death—a vast improvement for all concerned. We spent the time together remembering her in her prime and reliving the fun of years past.
The first birthday party was for a dear friend who turned 75 this year. Turning 75 really means something to me. It’s the time when the rest of us get to acknowledge that the birthday girl or boy has earned their Merit Badge as a wise person. Sounds like a great reason for a party to me!
The one we planned for this friend was designed as a surprise. And we actually pulled that off! This was a group of hikers. We usually dress ready to hit the trail. It was fun just to see everyone gussied up.
The first gift the birthday girl received was a crown of real flowers. (A flower crown makes you feel pretty dang special. I learned this as the recipient at a surprise party when I turned 59.) She ended up fielding questions from strangers at the restaurant about what was going on for the entire evening, but that was also part of the fun. Our friend was radiant, and we all were happy together.
The other birthday party? My own. It was staged by my three-year old granddaughter. I’d agreed to watch her and her six-month-old sister while her parents went to a class a few days after my birthday. My son had taken the time to make chocolate cupcakes and luscious chocolate frosting before they left, but how we put them together and what we did with them was up to my older granddaughter and me. She took the lead.
First, we had to be sure there was going to be dessert. She announced at the beginning of dinner that she was going to be a member of the Clean Plate Club that night and she followed through on that. After dinner, we carefully slathered two cupcakes with the frosting. Then she insisted we needed candles. Oh great. How was I going to come up with them? She confidently went to the “junk” drawer and found one. Then she coached me until I found another. (We had to have two so she could blow one out along with me.) We put the candles in the cupcakes, I lit them, and she proceeded to sing the entire Happy Birthday song to me. We blew out our candles. Then we lit them again and sang the whole song to her. What a perfect party!
No matter what the situation, there is something to celebrate—something to be happy about. Sometimes it’s a formal event. Sometimes it’s a cupcake with a three-year-old. Sometimes, it’s just clicking your orange juice glasses at the breakfast table to acknowledge that the sun is out and we have another day together.
Celebrating marks that moment as happy. It reminds us that life is good—whether it’s happy stories about an 85 year-old loved one who’s just passed or a pre-school graduation. Celebrating is about giving—recognition, laughter, and the shared happiness of seeing someone accomplish a milestone. It’s the pinnacle of being “connected.”
Let’s not wait for the super special occasions. Celebrate something. Soon.