Years ago, when I was studying in Rome, I befriended a Latin American girl
who had gone to Italy to study philosophy. I loved reflecting with her on
the meaning of things. I remember that we once had a wonderful discussion
about the anthropological value of celebration, the main topic of a course
she was taking.
The course focused on the “celebration” that life is, and my friend said:
“The days and moments of celebration must break up our routines, taking us
into a different dimension from our daily life for a while. We need both an
everyday life (otherwise we would not appreciate the “party”), as well as
days that break up the monotony (otherwise we would be alienated from
Not all moments are equal
Even without having taken philosophy seminars, we would probably agree that
there are special occasions that should be celebrated. It’s not the same
whether we celebrate or not… it’s nice to stop and give thanks for
something, remember a happy time, and appreciate all that we have, most
importantly our relationships.
However, celebrations only happen in communion with others. One cannot
“celebrate alone.” You can rejoice inwardly, but if you are not with
someone else, a party doesn’t happen.
What does this say about a family?
have already spoken about the importance of creating shared moments
with our families
throughout the day, explaining why it is important, for example, to keep
geniality alive… Now we would like to focus on the importance of knowing
how to celebrate special occasions.
Sharing is the soul of the party
I remember a very sad picture that was floating around social media some
time ago, of a woman blowing out some birthday cake candles by herself.
Behind her, on the couch, you could see a man – probably her husband –
looking at something on his cell phone. The children were doing something
else—maybe playing video games. Anyone looking at the picture could imagine
that the photo had been taken using the self-timer feature.
There were “funny memes” created using this picture (the situation,
unfortunately, lent itself to jokes because it was so surreal: we all
realize that “celebrating alone is not celebrating”). Yet, honestly, I
think there is very little to laugh about.
Behind this lack of care on a day that should be celebrated lies the tragic
reality of a disjointed family—of a family struggling to “live together.”
I saw this photo just before the Coronavirus crisis began, and it made such
an impression on me with the lockdown then limiting our ability to come
together (which cost us so much), but the bigger problem remains emotional
distance between people.
Even in the midst of the Covid lockdowns we saw people toasting via Skype
at Christmas, popping champagne virtually for graduation celebrations,
dancing together on New Year’s Eve via a screen. The desire to be with one
another nearly overcame physical impediments with the help of technology.
But if the desire isn’t there, there is no point in being in the same
“It is important to be able to emphasize what is special”
A few months ago, a friend told me enthusiastically that she had read some
beautiful works by Mariolina Ceriotti Migliarese, a child neuropsychiatrist
and psychotherapist from Milan, Italy, who practices as a psychotherapist
for adults and couples and is involved in parent and teacher training. She
suggested I read the book
The imperfect family. How to turn worries and problems into exciting
La famiglia imperfetta. Come trasformare ansie e problemi in sfide
appassionanti, Ares, 2010) in which, among other things, she talks about
the value of celebrating with our families.
The book argues that knowing how to celebrate together makes relationships
stronger: celebrating the other family members serves as a reminder of just
how important they are, how much their presence matters to us. It
And there are so many occasions that we can find to celebrate together:
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, patron saints’ feast days, school
graduations, and even Sunday dinner. Ceriotti Migliarese suggests giving
value to the special traditions that each family builds over time around
particular anniversaries and finally adds that it is also important not to
keep children from attending funerals of loved ones, since denying death
doesn’t help one to work through their fears about it.
Giving space for one another’s value and life’s value
The message that the psychotherapist conveys – and that I intend to share
with you – can be summed up in this line from her book: “There is a culture
that is linked to the ability to celebrate and the ability to distinguish
everyday moments from special moments—a culture that recognizes differences
and celebrates them. It is important to become able to emphasize what is
special, because this highlights its value.”
You don’t need big things to celebrate, I might add. You don’t need to
spend a fortune on an anniversary or birthday. The essential ingredient is
simply the desire to celebrate life together.