By Alan Miles
Birthdays, weddings, graduations, holidays — most of us have calendars peppered with major events to celebrate throughout the year. But for every one of these calendar-worthy events, there are many more modest, everyday milestones and accomplishments that deserve celebrating too. They’re the little things behind the big things, and finding simple, fun ways to acknowledge them cheers us, motivates us and develops our sense of gratitude.
Opportunities for fun
There are opportunities for spontaneous celebrations almost every day. And it isn’t always necessary to plan ahead and create big-deal parties for them. A simple, favorite meal is always great way to acknowledge someone’s accomplishment. Also, look to special events in the world at large to celebrate, such as an impromptu picnic on the living room floor to celebrate the lengthening hours of daylight at the winter’s solstice. Almost anything fun can work as a celebration.
When my son took his first steps, my wife and three-year-old daughter, Lily, taped footprints cut out of colored construction paper all over his room — including up the walls and across the ceiling. Years later, Lily’s learner’s permit was celebrated with a cake shaped and decorated like our Iowa license plate.
And the acknowledgement can be as simple as a toast. Our kids, and now our grandkids, have always enjoyed lifting their glasses — whether milk, water or wine — to salute an accomplishment. We’ve toasted everything from lost teeth to teetering towers of canned goods to first jumps in horseback riding.
Sharing everyday celebrations with children is easy — kids eagerly appreciate minor breaks from routine as “special,” they prize attention given them for accomplishments, and they readily embrace the idea of celebrating the little stuff.
Find ways to celebrate tykes’ milestones, such as walking, talking, potty training, learning to ride a bike (or learning anything else). Keep it going with subsequent successes — good grades, singing with the choir, getting a part in a play, making the basketball team, doing well on a big test, earning a driver’s license, etc. If you’re happy for your child, it’s worth calling attention to it with a small, unassuming celebration. And if you can also add fun to key events in your child’s life — like the first and last days of school — all the better.
Kids might be an easier sell when it comes to emphasizing small things and having fun for just a little reason, but it’s a healthy habit for all of us. We older folks go out to dinner or buy something special to celebrate important things, but why not have some fun and show appreciation for little things too? When we finish up a project at work or home, make it all the way around a new running route without walking, or fix a long-nagging minor car or house problem, a small celebration will increase our satisfaction and motivate us to meet other daily challenges.
All manner of things — movies, outings, visits, special activities, time together, decorations — can emphasize an accomplishment or event you want to highlight. But food is always a good way to celebrate. While you won’t want to spend the time to make a cake for every occasion, it is the traditional celebration food. (According to Julia Child, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.”) For everyday celebrations, just some out-of-the-ordinary snacks can add to the fun of the gathering. And you can look for thematic tie-ins to the event being celebrated. Mark that first snowfall with cups of delicious hot chocolate, for example.
Whatever you celebrate, just remember that the particulars of the celebration aren’t as important as the spirit of it. What’s key is a gesture of recognition for something notable in our lives. Looking for opportunities to celebrate creates a more appreciative state of mind and a greater awareness of all the little events and small steps of progress that make our lives a celebration of living.
What kinds of everyday celebrations does your family have?
About the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball (Go Hawks!). Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 35 years, his four kids and grandkids.