When I was a kid, my mom celebrated everything in a big way. She’d hang hearts all over for Valentine’s Day, help us make homemade cookies and ornaments for Christmas, and invite the whole family over for cake after every one of my dance recitals. I learned from her that celebrating adds extra joy to life, and I have wonderful memories of my celebration-filled childhood.
When my own two sons were born, I knew I wanted to do the same. I followed my mom’s lead, but we also established our own traditions. My husband and I joined the fun on Halloween, making our own costumes to go with whatever the boys had chosen. We were a Superman family one year, a Star Wars family another, and the cast from Where’s Waldo? another year. Our sons’ birthday parties were elaborate themed events, from Pokemon to Pirates to The Amazing Race. One year, we transformed our entire house into Hogwarts and enlisted friends to help us portray the staff for our son’s Harry Potter party.
This focus on celebrating came in handy over a decade ago when I became ill with a chronic immune disorder, and two years later, my sons followed with the same diagnosis. Those early years were tough, with three of the four of us sick and often unable to get off the couch. Maintaining our celebration traditions helped to add an element of joy to otherwise dark days. We had to scale back some of our endeavors, but our sons looked forward to each holiday, big or small.
This time of year lends itself especially well to celebration. With short days and freezing temperatures, the winter blues can set in, even if you are perfectly healthy. Fortunately, there are plenty of small holidays between New Year’s and Easter for celebrating. We have a Superbowl party every year, even if it’s just the four of us. For Chinese New Year, we set out decorations and make our favorite Asian dishes. We decorate the house and exchange sweet treats on Valentine’s Day, and hang shamrocks and eat a corned beef dinner on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve even been known to celebrate Groundhog’s Day!
The biggest celebration in our household this time of year, though, is Mardi Gras. My husband and I used to live in New Orleans, and since we left, we have continued to celebrate Mardi Gras. We used to have a huge party with 50 friends each year. We’ve had to scale back, but we haven’t given up. We still host our annual party, though it is a smaller affair with a few close friends.
The week before, I make huge batches of our favorite New Orleans foods: red beans & rice and jambalaya. We order Zapp’s chips from Louisiana, shrimp from the seafood shop, and King Cakes from a local bakery. We fill our house with decorations in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold, and bring out a big box of Mardi Gras beads to hang all over the house. Our sons, now 17 and 20, invite a few of their closest friends, too, and we forget all our worries and enjoy the celebration.
Everyone has his or her share of challenges to endure, but you can still find small moments of joy in every day. Celebrating everything, big and small, is one way that we keep the joy in our lives.