Celebrate the little things in life, appreciate tomorrow, love your neighbor or don’t, but never condemn yourself to a life without cause to celebrate and be thankful for what you have. Never forget the people you love and love them when you have an occasion to do so. Celebrate their lives and celebrate yours. Anonymous.The years seem to go by in a blur of annual celebrations; starting with New Year's Day, followed by Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and ending with New Year's Eve. Aside from the possible important perk of a day off from work, what other purpose or benefits are there?
My last blog was about Mother's Day. Since then I have been "celebrating" almost every week: A high school graduation in Alaska, a scholarship banquet in Seattle, and tomorrow, Memorial Day in Bellingham. There has been no time to write about my thoughts, feelings and opinions about each, thus I am combining them, all important in their way, in today's topic about why celebrations are important.
(1) Having attended multiple high school graduations of children and grandchildren in Washington state I was wondering if there would be a difference from one in Alaska. We flew to Anchorage on Wednesday, May 11, were met at the airport by our son, and whisked away to the family home in Chugiak, a small nearby town. The graduation was to be at 7:00, and there was the usual hustle-bustle and near calamities (forgotten hat, lost tassel), with several cars heading back to Anchorage and its large arena, site of most area graduations.
Compared to others I have attended, this graduation was conventional and rather sedate - no wild decorating of caps or crazy behavior. Pomp and Circumstance signaled the filing in of graduates, who took their seats in anticipation of this long awaited event. Family members strained to catch a glimpse of their loved ones.
Various student speakers spoke earnestly about what they had learned and what to do about the future, the chosen faculty speaker spoke as earnestly about lessons to be learned and related his speech to his subject of chemistry. Tassels were turned, hundreds of balloons were released, floating downwards, pictures were taken, the honorees were presented with flowers, floral and candy leis, and Voila! It was over. All that was left was the all-night party, a final social symbol of high school's completion. Although they might not have realized it at the time, it was a last goodbye to classmates of many years. Life had changed for hundreds of Chugiak graduated seniors, AND for our granddaughter who will head to Seton Hall in August for a full-ride scholarship to study diplomacy. There was much to celebrate.
(2) A week later found us in the social hall of Mount Zion Baptist Church celebrating a different kind of academic milestone - honoring nine Seattle area high school seniors who were each receiving $l,000 scholarships to attend the post secondary institution of their choice. One hundred-eighty people sat watching, after a banquet dinner, as the nine filed up to receive their certificates and applause. It was a great sendoff to the next step o life.
(3) Memorial Day, tomorrow, is a somber celebration - a day of remembrance of those who died in service to our country. Officially proclaimed a holiday on May 5, 1868, and also called Decoration Day, it was a time when flowers were placed on the graves of union and confederate soldiers in the Arlington National Cemetery. A poem called "In Flanders Fields" by Moina Michael was written in 1914.
We cherish too the poppy red that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.
As a result of this poem the poppy became a symbol honoring those who died during time of war. Poppies were sold to benefit servicemen in need, and later to raise money for children orphaned by war, or widowed women.
The holiday has undergone transformation since its inception so that now people remember anyone close to them who has died, decorating graves of loved ones with flowers as well as placing flags on graves and along city streets.
Three different events, three kinds of celebrations. What is their importance? In an informal poll of college classmates and colleagues, friends and family I got these answers.
Celebrations. . .
· Bring people together, and promote camaraderie.
· Keep traditions going
· Recognize work, goals, or milestones
· Recognize the value of life
· Uplift the human spirit in a sometimes gloomy world
· Help us to learn about other cultures, i.e. Cinco de Mayo
These cultural rites help give meaning to life and recognize each and every one of us , whether it is a simple family birthday in a ghetto home with only a cupcake and candle, or a lavish bar mitzvah with hundreds of invited guests who recognize the coming of age of a twelve-year old Jewish boy .
In an impossibly fast paced world celebrations help us to spend a little time taking stock of who we are, and recognizing our value to each other and to our world. Of all the reasons for celebrations listed, perhaps uplifting the human spirit is most important in a world filled with bad news. So, tomorrow enjoy a family picnic after remembering someone who has gone on. Then celebrate every milestone reached, throughout the year, no matter how small. The smiles of joy and laughter in these moments of shared delight will be worth the effort.