Happy Birthday! Merry Christmas!

Celebrate year-round

By Lorna Foreman | May 2019

People celebratingWe have many moments of celebrating throughout the year. Some are traditional like Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas, but some are personal such as birthdays. No matter what you celebrate, they are moments where we put things aside and possibly get together with other people to acknowledge an important event. While I know some traditions of other cultures, it is impossible to really understand them, as I was brought up in a different culture. I can only write from my perspective.

What do you celebrate? Do you celebrate? What purposes do they achieve? I love acknowledging my birthdays despite the number growing larger every year. For me, it is a realization that “wow, I’ve made it this far” — an appreciation that I am indeed fortunate to still be able to celebrate.

A friend commented that celebrations are great as long as you are in the mood, because nothing is lonelier than spending Christmas Day alone if you don’t have family or a place to go. It is a known fact that foreign students have a difficult time over holidays. I used to invite two for Christmas dinner, since I lived near the University of Toronto. I was happy to see how delighted they were, and I learned something of their culture.

Friends of mine love celebrating, whether it is the end of the work week, finishing all of the housework, getting a new job, a raise, or accomplishing something meaningful in their lives. I have had a few dogs in my life and any dog owner knows that one of the best reasons to have a dog is their demonstration of joy when you come home. It doesn’t matter whether you have been gone for ten minutes or a couple of days, they are overjoyed to see you. One dog I had was so excited when I got home from school, he piddled on the floor even though he was house trained. Not that I would suggest anyone celebrate in that particular fashion, as it could be rather embarrassing.

Celebrate — we all do it, even if we are totally unaware of it as such. The sale of my first painting; getting high marks when going to art school at the age of forty (actually, even being accepted was a reason to celebrate). My ways are simple — I pick up my cat and dance around the room. My cat isn’t too sure why, mind you.

Cultural celebrations vary, but they usually have a commonality to them. Welcoming the day, reaping a good crop — all perfect reasons to dance and make merry. Even saying grace before a meal is a way to give thanks for the food about to be served. I am sure if you study other cultures, you would see similarities.

My business partner and I give workshops on “making personal changes.” We advise making a list of the small steps to follow to achieve your goal. Each step, once done, deserves a mini celebration. It is a way to recognize that you’ve succeeded and provides incentive to go to the next step. It is a form of gratitude. We often judge ourselves harshly and that creates negative thoughts. By acknowledging what we have achieved it shows respect for ourselves.

Our society has common moments of observances: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas to name a few. They don’t have to be done with other people, but when you include others they have an accelerated feeling of joy. Canada Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa is one example. It is hard not to feel the tangible energy from the crowds.

Animals celebrate meeting each other: wolves howl and display playful behaviour as do elephants and chimpanzees. Perhaps celebration might not be the correct word, but they certainly show signs of experiencing pleasure. Have you ever been privileged to hear a wolf pack announce a kill? The howling is awesome.

I have read that celebrating positive events with others actually produces more happiness than if you did it on your own. Think of Carnival time in Rio, the Mardi Gras in New Orleans — even the Olympics — the essence of them is a homage to physical achievement.

Until I started researching to write this column, I had not realized how much of my life I actually have little rituals for. I am at the age, that when I wake up, I do a little ceremony that acknowledges that I am alive and grateful to be well. I don’t telephone all my friends to tell them, but I give myself a treat — my first cup of coffee.

I am now much more conscious of how many things are worthy of such gratitude. While cultures celebrate good crops, equinoxes and solstices, we pay attention to life steps; births, reaching adulthood, marriage and even death. All are reasons to celebrate.

Lorna Foreman is a self-described 50-plus writer, author and artist who lives in Cornwall.