My children’s birthdays are coming up. My son will be 10 in October and my daughter will be 11 in December. We have been discussing ideas for celebrating, wish lists for gifts, and choices of cakes. Celebrating a birthday is a big deal in our house. I decorate the dining room with colorful tablecloths, plates, utensils, centerpieces, and birthday banners. Balloons are tied on the mailbox post, on the kitchen counter, and on the chair of the birthday boy or girl. Presents are creatively wrapped and displayed on the table, sometimes with notes or clues attached to make it more fun. Each child chooses if they want me to make their favorite meal or if they want to go out to a favorite restaurant. Either way, we have cake and ice cream at home. We wear the silly party hats, light the candles, turn off the lights, and sing “Happy Birthday”. Then, we eat cake!
I am not sure how long the kids will continue to enjoy this tradition. As they get older, I am not sure that celebrating at home with balloons and Mom and Dad will be so exciting but I hope that they will humor me after their enthusiasm fades. We still plan birthday parties and activities with friends but on their actual birthday, the anniversary of the day they were born…that day will always be special.
We have other traditions in this house. Lots of them. On Christmas Eve, after evening church service, we go for our “Night Walk”. We live in a neighborhood that goes all out for Christmas. We get all bundled up, grab some flashlights, and go for a walk through our neighborhood to check out the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations. There is something so magical about seeing the lights up close at night while breathing in that crisp night air. Of course, December in Pennsylvania can be pretty cold so we always come home to fuzzy pajamas and hot chocolate. It is a tradition that I look forward to every year. If I had my way, they would still do this with me in college!
On Valentine’s Day, we plan a chocolate fondue night, complete with everything you can think of that you can dip into chocolate. We get the heart-shaped plates and the valentine’s decorations. On Saint Patrick’s Day, I plan a scavenger hunt for the kids after school. They read clues and find trinkets and candy at the end of the ‘rainbow’, or last clue. Around Easter, a similar scavenger hunt ends with a chocolate bunny and jelly beans. Traditions are centered around holidays and occasions, but we celebrate the every day too. My son takes karate. After every test, we take him out to lunch to celebrate his hard work. My daughter plays softball. After games, we go get ice cream to celebrate a win or as a consolation for a tough loss. We have family movie night. We push back the coffee table, spread blankets all over the floor, pop popcorn, and set out a buffet of ‘movie snacks’. We make up reasons to bake a cake, to go for ice cream, to have chocolate fondue with all the fixings. We take the time to celebrate.. the big things, the little things, and anything in between.
We may go a little overboard on birthdays with balloons and all the extra touches. We may celebrate holidays that some people don’t really think about and we may go above and beyond for our movie night snack bar … but what is wrong with that? We enjoy it but we don’t need all the extras. The kids would be happy with a just cake and ice cream. The kids would enjoy our scavenger hunts even if there wasn’t a chocolate bunny or golden coins at the end. It isn’t about the “stuff”. It is about being together. It’s about making memories and making the most of every day. It’s not just about celebrating birthdays and holidays. It’s about celebrating LIFE!
When I was diagnosed with cancer, every milestone and every holiday had a new meaning. I tried to make a celebration out of everything …for my family and on my own. I watch for the first daffodils to pop up in their bright yellow welcome to spring. I watch the trees for that first color explosion of fall. I stare at that bright blue sky and puffy white clouds. I take it all in. In a sudden moment, our lives can change, our lives can be over. So, celebrate.. that is what it means to live like this is your last day, to live like there is no tomorrow…because there might not be. And don’t you want to know that you cherished every moment, enjoyed every last drop, celebrated every day on this earth as though it were a gift? I know I do.
After my diagnosis, I have put up so many Christmas decorations. I have always loved decorating but now, Christmas takes over our house. I think I added a Christmas tree in a new room every year. I absolutely love Christmastime. My husband calls me the “crazy decorating lady” but he still unloads all those boxes, assembles trees, strings lights, hangs garland … every single year. Yes, that guy must really love me. I don’t think I have ever told anyone this but over the last few years, as I packed away those decorations and closed the lid on the final box, I said a prayer. I asked our Heavenly Father to watch over my family throughout the upcoming year and to keep my cancer at bay so that I will be here to open those boxes the following year and celebrate again. I don’t take that for granted. One year, I will close those lids for the last time.
That’s why I don’t wait for a special occasion. I beg you not to wait either. Sure, family traditions and holiday rituals are special because they only happen once a year but there are plenty of other things you can do to celebrate the every day. Go out for ice cream because you got all of your laundry done. Make a loved one their favorite meal because it is Tuesday. Pick up your kid early from school and take them somewhere fun. Surprise your husband at work with a blanket and a picnic basket. Bake your favorite cake for yourself, just because you felt like it.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a day special. You don’t need money. You don’t need a lot of time. You just need to want to. Don’t wait for summer. Don’t wait until pay-day. Don’t wait…
Celebrate today. Celebrate this moment. Tomorrow may never come but today, …
it’s happening RIGHT NOW.
I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate… can you?