To celebrate is to do something enjoyable in order to show that an occasion or event is special. This according to www.macmillandictionary.com.

I should have looked that up a lot sooner because I am a person who tends not to celebrate over much. Maybe you can identify with that too.

I mean, I get a lot of 💩💩done. No day is wasted over here but there are times when big moments happen that I prefer not to say much about it. Not to celebrate or acknowledge the work.

Recently I learned that’s a “Dutch thing.” What?? At least, it was the case in my home, woven through my upbringing. You did not dare to “take up too much space” as in showboat yourself or puff up your chest over much. This would not be welcome, or safe, behavior. It might earn you a swat around the ears – een lel voor je ooren in Dutch.

If you thought yourself too big for your britches that also would earn you a swat on the backside holding up those britches. As a child, therefore, I learned to fly under the radar as much as possible. Safer that way!

However, when it came time to celebrate, we did it well and also in the strong Dutch tradition of celebrating. Every Sunday after church was a celebration. Mom would make a Mocha Torte, serve it with coffee and gather together for koffie tijd. You celebrated the day in this formalized way. I think fondly of these days even now.

But let’s take a minute now to understand where the idea of celebrating came from. Some 3000 years BCE (Before the Common Era), the first birthday celebration was noted. When Egyptian pharaohs were crowned in ancient Egypt, this was a moment that was recognized as much more than their birth, it was the moment they were considered gods.

I am no God but I can get the idea that a birthday is a pretty big deal.

Now let’s consider how difficult it would have been to mark the passage of time before calendars. It would have been challenging in that era to remember a birthday or any other celebration without one. That’s when people began to notice the cycles of the moon and the seasons. These patterns were repeatable, happening with regularity such that calendars came into existence as a result.

Ancient Egyptian Calendar

The Ancients would gather together to celebrate occasions believing that cheer, good company and fun would ward off evil spirits. I tend to agree. It’s difficult to be in a lousy mood while you’re celebrating.

The most famous birthday and the one that changed the way Pagan peoples thought of birthdays as connected to original sin, was the big man himself, Jesus. His birthday, known as Christmas, forever corrected the birth of a new soul to a new light coming to this earth. His light was the greatest of all.

Personally I commend that change in thinking. Celebration may be an ancient ritual but it needn’t be, and today isn’t, a way to feel bad about ourselves. Just the opposite is true. It’s a way to feel good and to acknowledge our accomplishments. When we celebrate we are reinforcing something good about ourselves and something important to us.

On that note, as I began to explore my Dutch heritage a little further, I realized that my “play it small” attitude of flying under the radar when a child was ridiculous. How did I learn this?

Recently I spent several weeks with my mother as she lay in a palliative state. When she still had her voice and the presence of mind to speak, she began to share stories of her own childhood. One of these stories was about a mirror in the lower level of the house at 14 Billitonstraat, Delft. It hung on the wall just outside of the WC – so my mother called the bathroom.

She had clear memories of her mother scolding her for looking in the mirror too much, let alone at all. Her fiercely Catholic mother believed that the devil himself lived in that mirror and too much time spent looking at it would cause harm. My mother was told, in what I think was a bold faced lie, to keep small, never look in a mirror and not to look too pretty. According to her mother, she needed to be quiet and small.

It dawned on me that this attitude about celebrating oneself, feeling good about how she, my mother, or even I felt about myself was tainted by this spell that had been cast by her deeply religious mother. According to her, in and behind that mirror lay Satan and to spend time looking made you evil too.

Now as I approach the celebration of my 64th birthday I feel an entirely new attitude is required, at least on my part.

Why not pull out all the stops? I am no King Charles requiring a full scale coronation, but why wouldn’t I put on my party dress and matching shoes for a day and even a night of celebration? Let my outfit be sparkly. Let the shoes be outrageous. Let the bubbles fill my glass while I bask in the glow of my loving friends and family.

Modern day psychologists suggest that celebration is an act that releases feel good endorphins. Bathed in the afterglow of a good time, it’s easier to feel content and part of something greater in this world. Celebrating big and small wins also builds resilience. Small wins acknowledged drive the desire to do more, try harder, go further. You learn quickly what works and what’s worth investing your time into.

Reality is driven by perception. If you think you’re worthy of acknowledgement, you are. If you don’t, you’ll overlook the greatest aspects of yourself. A win is a win. Be present with that knowledge. Think to yourself, when you’ve lost a few unwanted pounds or inches, “Wow! I did it. I feel grand. I want to hit my next goal. Be fully present in that journey.”

It is my birthday this month and it might be yours too, so I say bring out the full scale party. I’m celebrating me, myself and I.

Happy Birthday Friends,

Happy Birthday!

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