Perpetual Celebration

Perpetual Celebration

Last week I touched on a topic I’d like to revisit in greater depth: celebration. So many holidays converge around the darkest day of the year – from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to Saint Nicholas Day to New Year’s to the Winter Solstice itself. Maybe it’s coincidence, but we like having reasons to celebrate and get together as it becomes dark and cold and we’re forced to spend more time indoors. However, after the new year, the celebrations are mostly over and then that we face, in the northern latitudes, the hardest time of year as cold, wet, and snowy weather persists for several more months. We NEED more celebration!

In northern Europe, where the day length becomes very short, merry occasions of togetherness are an essential part of keeping spirits up. In Denmark, this tradition is called Hygge. Not exactly a “celebration” so much as a way of life, Hygge is roughly translated as “coziness,” and its something Danes routinely create in their homes. Elements of coziness such as warm drinks, good friends, crackling fires, comfort foods, and cheery decorations are all key, but the mindset is an even more essential piece: feeling safe, comfortable, and lighthearted, letting oneself be at ease, enjoying the people we’re with, setting worries aside, and indulging a bit without guilt.

In the U.S., our living spaces and public buildings tend to be large and airy. We like giant stores and we seek houses with high ceilings and lots of space to spread out. But perhaps this expansive sprawl isn’t altogether good for us psychologically. It makes us more distant from each other, both physically and socially, and the bigness of these spaces encourages us to accumulate lots of stuff to fill them with. Stuff which ultimately does little to fulfill us.

If hygge (roughly pronounced “hoo-ga”) sounds appealing, think about what you can do with your living space to stoke this cozy feeling, and invite some friends over. And if “getting comfy and lighthearted” seems not to be reason enough for frequent get-togethers, then perhaps you can find more things to celebrate. Every week, there should be at least one thing worth celebrating. For me, growing up in a Jewish household, every Friday night we would light candles, sing songs, drink wine, eat fresh doughy bread (challah), and recount the good things that happened that week. There doesn’t need to be more reason than this to set aside a time for specialness.

But you find impromptu celebration tricky, here are some extra (more or less secular) holidays to consider celebrating in 2016:

  • January 13th: Stephen Foster Memorial Day. Stephen Foster, who lived in the mid-19th century, is often called The Father of American Music. He wrote so many classics, like Oh! Susannah, Camptown Races, and Old Folks at Home that conveyed the feel of the early days of our country and are still popular 150 years later. Celebrate by playing some of his music, have some sing alongs, and perhaps start a discussion on what the virtuous side of American culture is today.
  • January 18th: Martin Luther King Day. Usually MLK Day is kind of a solemn one. Assassination never sits well with us, and we all know there’s still a lot of work to be done toward racial equality, but why not celebrate the amazing spirit that shined through this man, and perhaps have a broader celebration of all the cultural treasures of Black America.
  • January 25th: Tu B’Shevat (“Too-bish-vaht”). Though it’s a Jewish holiday, it’s really just a celebration of trees. Sometimes called the New Year of Trees it’s celebrated by eating fruits of all kinds, but especially some of the ancient ones: figs, dates, pomegranates, olives, and grapes.
  • February 1st: National Freedom Day. This day commemorates the outlawing of slavery in the U.S. Besides celebrating the end of this dark chapter in our history, and the new (albeit troubled) chapter of welcoming our friends of color as our equals, why not start a dialogue on what freedom means to us today, what things (ideas, prejudices, habits, technology, etc.) may threaten to infringe on our personal freedom, and have a night of freeing ourselves from all such shackles.
  • February 2nd: Groundhog Day. By far, this is our stupidest holiday, so why not turn it into a celebration of all that is campy and absurd? Watch B movies, wear tacky clothes, or come up with your own new interpretations of what the groundhog and seeing or not seeing his shadow may represent. Let everyone come up with suggestions and pick the best one.
  • February 8th: Chinese New Year. This marks the beginning of the year of the Fire Monkey. If ever there were a party animal, it’s the Fire Monkey! Use your imagination – there are just too many good ways to weave Fire and Monkeys into your celebration.
  • February 9th: Mardi Gras. One of the biggest parties of the year, Mardi Gras traditionally marks the last day before Lent (fasting). It is also more or less synonymous with celebrations of Carnival, which are some of the most massive and flamboyant parties in the world. Wear masks and costumes, put on some music or make your own, and consider a pilgrimage to New Orleans or Rio, where the most boisterous celebrations occur.
  • February 14th: I don’t have to remind you what this day is, right? It’s funny that on a day meant to celebrate Love, there’s often so much pressure to be in a relationship with someone and to adequately demonstrate your love with gifts and romance. If there were ever a day to be relaxed, grateful, and light about Love, this is it. Love is available to everyone. Perhaps it’s more in the spirit of Love to have a celebration of Love in all forms – love for our friends, for our family, for our animals, for our trees and flowers, for our water, and our sky, and everything else that makes this world so great – rather than the more limited eros-type love.

Celebrating these holidays should keep your spirits up through mid-February. I’ll leave it to you to find holidays to celebrate the rest of the year, though really, we don’t need holidays to celebrate. If you just keep your eyes open, you’ll find plenty to celebrate every day. Give it a try. Tell us what happens!

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten

  • Heidi
    Posted at 01:12h, 16 December Reply

    Thank you for the great reading 🙂 I was treated to a Spa Service at The Dragontree & enjoyed it immensely but while I don’t always take time to spa – when I do I know where to come and I love that you share your thoughts.
    Thank you for your thoughtful, heartfelt words – In a world with a lot of things to read your words are appreciated.
    Heidi 🙂

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 16:17h, 16 December Reply

      Thanks, Heidi! I appreciate your kind words. – Peter

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