Sitting here at the end of 2020, I have a hard time considering putting up decorations, lighting candles or celebrating much of anything at all. With nearly 300,000 dead in the United States and a dumpster fire of a year in the bag, I can think of a million reasons not to celebrate and having a harder time finding the reasons to celebrate. In fact, as I was preparing to lead a session on ‘Sharing in Celebration’ for Women Together, I quite honestly considered passing it off to another teacher to lead.
As I started to research the importance of celebration, I began to realize and remember how important it is to celebrate. And, I’m not kidding, as soon as I began to recall this inherent human need for celebration, the sun began peeking through on a day that had been snowy and grey. It can be so easy to focus on the things that bring us down but celebration itself can be what allows the sun to shine through on the grey, increasing our wellbeing, improving stress levels and allowing us to better care for ourselves.
It’s easy to be reluctant to celebrate in general. I’ve found a number of reasons in 2020 so far:
- Everything is so bad for so many, what right do I have to celebrate?
- I’m not worthy of celebration because I have so much left to accomplish
- Celebrating will just take up extra time
- I need to be productive and efficient — celebrating gets in the way
- No one else sees my accomplishments or no one will witness my celebration so why should I do it at all?
There are also two aspects to our reluctance or enthusiasm towards celebration. Either of these internal or social fields could be reasons for or against celebration depending on how you feel about holidays, friends, or yourself:
- I celebrate because the family is getting together and that’s what we do.
- I’m celebrating because it’s time to celebrate.
- I’m celebrating because the calendar says celebrate.
- I celebrate because there is an external cause (or because someone else threw a celebration).
- I celebrate because I accomplished something I had set as a goal.
- I celebrate myself because I am worthy of celebration.
- I celebrate because I deserve it!
- I celebrate because of an internal knowing regardless of what the clock, calendar or family/friends say.
In order to improve my health, well-being and address my general stress levels, I’ve decided to embrace all forms of celebration this year. And I have to say, it’s been improving my outlook.
Here’s are my Five Steps for Celebration:
- Use traditions: Lighting candles…. and getting a holiday tree. I grew up Jewish, and my grandfather was Orthodox. I went to Conservative Jewish day school for 12 years. But my father was Indian so I’ve become pretty good at blending traditions. I bought a tree (potted). I put it inside my house and put string lights around it. It makes me so happy to open the door to my room anywhere between 5pm and 7am and see the twinkling lights sparkling through the night. There is something about bringing light to the darkness that reminds us that good will prevail (and yep, if you caught the reference, I lit diyas for Diwali too). Our world’s traditions have guided humanity for centuries (whether we agree with the dogmatic belief systems or not).
- Acknowledge how adversity has become a strength: Did you see what I did there in number one? I celebrated something that was a huge internal tension for me for plenty of my life. It wasn’t easy going to Jewish day school with one of my parents holding a non-Jewish lineage. And yet, this aspect of my identity, a point of adversity for so long, has given me the ability to see beyond a singular point of view and be accepting and tolerant of difference in an embodied way. How has what you’ve faced shaped you?
- Self care ritual: I know it’s cliche at this point but I’m telling you the bath I took last night changed my life. Floating in hot water resets my body, mind, spirit. It realigns something in me and allows me to emerge (literally and figuratively) to take the next step. There are so many practices that we learn and take on when we feel we have the time. Yet, those are the things we forget and are quickly pushed aside when things are going wrong. What are the little self care rituals that make you feel better? Make it a celebration — add a candle! (Seriously, I added an extra candle to bath time and blew it out at the end like it was my BIRTHDAY — with a wish!)
- Note your accomplishments: 100% true that we are not only a sum of our accomplishments. Also 100% true: we can deeply benefit from celebrating any accomplishment, no matter how small. Sometimes, getting up out of bed is the accomplishment. Do a little dance, you did it! Each accomplishment builds on the next and helps us build our confidence. Each of those confidence builders give us the strength to take on the next slightly bigger fish.
- Lift others up: In any other year, I would say, “celebrate others! Even if the real acknowledgement that counts is self:self, the ones that come from others still feel good. Celebrate the ones around you in case they forgot too.” This year though, I want to also acknowledge that many of us have been touched perhaps lightly or perhaps quite deeply by grief. For some of us that grief has been sudden and immense. Regardless, the grief that has been un-earthed is real and powerful. It comes in waves and stages. And yet, celebration is an important part of the grief too. It is important to honor the lives of those we have lost, and the aspects of our own lives that have been lost this year too.
Here are some ways to celebrate others:
- Make a social media post celebrating someone else
- Send someone a card with a handwritten note (or gift) celebrating them
- Cheer someone on with a text — remind them that you believe in them
- Send someone flowers (or delivery — shout out to the most amazing childhood friend who did that for me — !!)
And some ways to honor the lives we’ve lost:
- Bury something — to put something back into the earth, even if it’s a symbolic ritual burial, can give an embodied release.
- Burn something — give something to the fire, watch it transform as all things do.
- Hold a memorial — gather virtually and tell stories about the lives you’ve lost. Perhaps (for those of us needing a slightly more light hearted version of this) it’s an ‘in-person gatherings we’ve missed’ virtual party where you share visions/dreams of in-person gatherings or relive memories of past gatherings.
- Play a song — whether or not you have a songs-that-got-you-through-2020 playlist, pick or commemorate a song to the person/being or part of your own life that you’ve lost. Play the songs that let you celebrate the life that existed, the lessons learned and a song to ‘dance it out’.
And then, as you lift others up, every single time, do something for yourself too. Let it be a nourishing cycle of celebration. And just when you think you don’t have a reason to celebrate, dig a little deeper, focus on the breath, you’ll find one — it’s there.