Celebration

In my blog post about celebration being the root of spiritual practice, I left out a significant reason we tend to celebrate in our lives:  accomplishment.  We don’t often think of it as a spiritual activity, but when you think about it it’s those things we put effort into, those successes we get excited about, which paint the clearest picture of the people we’re trying to be.  Those moments when we are so pleased that we’ve finished a task or reached a goal that we stop everything else and take time to celebrate are the moments where we recognize that we are changing and transforming ourselves for the better.

Then there’s the idea that taking time to recognize and savor our life experiences and accomplishments allows us to appreciate the beauty of life.  I would agree, and stopping to celebrate accomplishments and milestones in our lives forces us, in a way, to stop the frantic rush onward.  Celebrations become a moment to recenter ourselves, to readjust to the changes and progress we’ve made, before continuing the journey.  

And even more than that, celebrations are a measure of the people who are important to us.  The ones we gather to us, share our joy with, are the ones who are significant in our lives.  The people with whom we choose to celebrate are our community, our extended family, our sphere of influence.  They are our spiritual cohorts.

Taking the time to actually think about how and what we celebrate and who we celebrate those moments with is an activity with profound spiritual implications.  

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It’s My Party…

When we want to know about someone’s spiritual beliefs, we most often ask them exactly that:  What do you believe?  But that question can be so difficult to answer sometimes, and we’ve seemingly settled on a two-prong approach (here’s a summary of dogma, and here’s what that means is wrong with the world) which doesn’t actually give much insight.

What if, instead of asking for a statement of belief, we asked people what they celebrate?  What’s important to them?  How do they celebrate those important things?  And not just the traditional celebrations or the ones you make a big fuss over.  If we look at the things which make people stop and mark a moment it says a lot about what is truly important.

What things are so important that you take time off work?  What is cause for a big feast or the giving of gifts?  When do you invite people to spend time with you?  What things make you willing to change your routine to mark the occasion?  What dates do you always remember as significant?  What makes you dance?  What makes you dress up?  What makes you shut off your phone so you won’t be disturbed?

Those things which prompt us to stop everything and pour effort into exuberant festivities tell a lot about what we want out of life, what we strive for.  All those things we look forward to celebrating, the weddings and holidays and important life milestones, represent our ideals.  But the smaller observances are important too, and give a more detailed and nuanced view of how we approach life.  Those reasons we use to justify a night out with friends, an expensive meal, or an indulgence in a pastime we rarely participate tell us a lot about how we want our lives to be.

Isn’t it possible that this is the entire point of spirituality?  That our spiritual lives are, at their root, a collection of important ideals and ways of celebrating or honoring those ideals?  That the whole reason humans need spirituality is because it paints a picture of the life we desire and then actively engages us in celebrating that image?  

Yule Brinner and Other Punny Holidays

On the topic of everyday or non-traditional rituals, my favorite celebration of the year happens at the Winter Solstice or Yule.  On that day, I gather my framily for a special feast of foods that, though we eat in the evening, are traditional breakfast foods.  If you’re a fan of the show Scrubs, you might remember that Turk and JD referred to breakfast food eaten at dinner as Brinner.  

Yes, we have Yule Brinner.

(If you’re not at least chuckling right now, do a quick Google search for Yul Brynner and then come back.  It’s a pun.)

Anyway, the special part of the celebration isn’t that it’s particularly meaningful.  It doesn’t have anything to do with anything.  It’s an excuse to get together and exchange holiday gifts with friends.  We’ve literally taken a pun and turned it into an annual tradition.  And that’s the part that matters.  It’s ours, and we consider it special.

It’s like Festivus.  Or Star Wars Day (May the 4th…).  There’s nothing that says we can’t make up celebrations and rituals for personal reasons, to celebrate how we see fit.  And, in fact, by doing so we often create more meaningful rituals than the ones observed as part of larger cultural traditions.  Traditions and rituals should mean something to us, even if just as a pun or an excuse to gather with people who mean something to us.  Shaping that cycle of observances shouldn’t be left to the forces of society, it should be something we create on an individual level.  It should fit our own spiritual intentions and needs, our own particular concept of what’s worth celebrating.  

But yes, you can all steal the Yule Brinner idea if you want it.