Time to celebrate

The clouds above us join and separate. The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns. Life is like that, so why not relax? Who can stop us from celebrating?

Lu Yu
Stylised drawing of two people dancing around a tree

Diwali has just been and gone. Hanukkah is coming up soon. Christmas follows on. We look forward to festivals. They punctuate our year.

Festivals are usually family events. For those of us with relatives living at a distance or overseas, they are often the only time, or one of the rare times, we make the effort to get together. This is certainly the case with my family. The last time I saw two of my sons in person was last Christmas and it may be July before I see them again.

All around the world people’s festivals are being disrupted. In 2020 they have been and are going to continue to be very different because of the pandemic. COVID-19 is hitting festivals. Many Muslims were under lockdown and curfew during Eid Al Adha. There were and are limits on family gatherings haunted by the risk of infecting vulnerable relatives.

There is an anxiety in the air, not just about the virus but about the impact it is having on our personal and social lives. We are all touched by it.

I was musing on this, feeling sorry for myself when, as often happens at times like that, in response to a “How’s it going for you in Tanzania?” message I got the following replies from my friend there: “Not well dear. Hungry. No jobs. Food is an issue honestly dada (sister), food. All tents and everything got burned from a guy who burned his land for farming…We have been off internet since elections.”

Why does it so often take someone else’s worse plight to bring you up short and make you realise how lucky you are? It makes you realise where you are on the scale: near the top.

What always strikes me about this friend though is her positivity – “We are finding positives in all these and survive no matter what. I am a hyena. I have nature, I have my children, I have the stars.”

What can we learn from my friend? From this? Celebrate what we have.

In Values and Visions we write, “Complaining and moaning has become a habit in many places, including schools. Finding one hundred blessings in the day is a Jewish (Hasidic) practice. This simple activity can change how we look at the day and can transform it. It can begin to bring into school a sense of gladness and thankfulness.” (V&V, p 200).

This is what we need to do. OK, we cannot celebrate together in person this Hanukkah or Christmas but every day we can celebrate the many wonderful things in life.

Gratitude Jar full of papers

One way to do this is to start or end each day by writing something you are grateful for on a slip of paper and putting it in a Gratitude Jar (V&V, p 200). Another simple way is to take a moment to reflect on the day and to find and share one thing that brought pleasure or enjoyment to you. Celebration need not only be writ big.

Festivals are very relevant in the work on values and visions. Buried at the heart of festivals are the themes of human existence. Passover, for example, celebrates freedom, justice and hope; Christmas celebrates vulnerability, hope and new life. All are times for the expression of community. Festivals can also be times of exclusion and suffering: for all those who do not feel part of the community, the fun and pleasure of the celebration may well feel bitter and excluding. The tradition within Passover to always invite the stranger to the meal or at Eid to distribute food to the less fortunate is significant.

As a teacher or parent, these next few weeks are a perfect time to help children work through feelings of depression, loss and insecurity which may be intensified by the fact hat this year their festival may be very different from usual. In our activity Festivals (V&V, p 199) we help you reflect on what a particular festival is all about for each of us, what it means to us, how it relates to our values; how it connects to the world today and to the issues we are all facing. It might also be a good moment to think of who might feel excluded during the festival and how to involve them if not physically, then virtually.

As we say in the introduction to our chapter on CELBRATION and JOY, Celebration is about:

  • making a song and dance about life; treating the day as something special
  • recognising, experiencing and expressing gratitude, hope, joy,
  • compassion, thankfulness and love.

Joy is about:

  • enthusiasm and energy for life; enjoying life in its fullness
  • a spectrum of feelings including savouring, delight, gladness, appreciation, gratitude, contentment, wonder, happiness and thankfulness
  • a sense that all is essentially well
  • looking for and valuing the positive in every situation.

Perhaps most importantly today, we believe Joy is about finding hope in the world about us: a hope that sees beyond the suffering that exists.

Happiness can’t be limited to a few pleasant sensations, to some intense pleasure, to an eruption of joy or a fleeting sense of serenity, to a cheery day or a magic moment that sneaks up on us in the labyrinth of our existence. By happiness I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind… Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.

Matthieu Ricard

Let’s celebrate.

By Comments off November 17, 2020