We only celebrate our birthdays once a year, we only celebrate Christmas once every 12 months and, while we anxiously await these dates, we forget that there are hundreds of other occasions and reasons we should be commemorating. Being alive is more than reason enough to toast, every time we want, to this (too short) stay on planet Earth.
First things first, there’s a matter that has to be cleared: what does it mean to celebrate? Is it to drink champagne until you drop? Is it to party (The Great Gatsby style, with hundreds of guests, live music and performances)? We don’t have a right or definitive answer, but we do have a proposal of what a celebration should do for us. More than the actual commemoration itself - do the hors d'oeuvre or the look we wear really matter? -, what is truly important is how it should make us feel: happy. It doesn’t get any more cliché than this, but it is no lie when we say that a celebration isn’t just a party, it’s a state of mind. It’s being at peace, it’s satisfaction, acceptance, it’s euphoria, cheer, it is a moment (be it five minutes or five hours) when everything is on hold, where everyday worries and concerns are not welcome. Now, what each of us decides to do in order to achieve this wholeness is not up to us to dictate.
What we do want to think about is how often we take a day to celebrate. There are certain dates that are pretty much universal and synonyms of partying: birthdays and Christmas (even though they are celebrated in much different ways). When we are younger, throughout our teenage and early adult years, there are only two amongst many others. At 20 years old, everything is a reason to get friends together, a bottle of wine (or many) and spend a few hours dancing, singing out loud and sharing fun stories - all this while new ones are happening. Actually, during college, we partied with no concerns and celebrations were never exclusive of weekends (if I remember correctly, Thursday was the day to stay up until the morning). Before, parties happened whenever it made sense, no questions asked. So what changed? We grew up, finished school, got the job we longed for and so a new era was born: adult life. The life that happens from Monday through Friday, from 9 to 18 o’clock, and where not much besides work fits. The life where spontaneous celebrations on Tuesdays aren’t doable, where we stick to the basic and non negotiable ones. But they happen only once every 12 months and, even if we throw a great party with all our friends, with lots of music and drinks all night long, it will never be only one commemoration, one day amongst 364 others.
It wasn’t long ago that someone told me (and it was the first time I ever heard) the expression “life is beautiful, we’re the ones who wreck it” (“a vida é bela, nós é que damos cabo dela”). At first sight, it can sound pretty fatalist, wrecking a life can easily be understood as a situation of personal disaster with no possible solution. After a few hours during which I could not get these words out of my head, not only did I realize how much sense they made, but I could not agree more. Life is, in fact, beautiful, to be on this planet right now is an opportunity we (probably) won’t have every again and here we can do anything and everything, the options are endless and we have anything we could ever need. As time goes by, we tend to allow everyday responsibilities to take over our lives and we forget the potential of our time here on Earth. Without wanting to resort to one of the most used terms of the past decade, we only live once and we can’t get back any day that goes by. Are we sure we want to waste them in everyday concerns? We keep forgetting the meaning of the word “celebrate” and allow ourselves to be absorbed by routine.
Sometimes we need to narrow down the proportion in which we see ourselves, especially when some problems seem to be bigger than us. We are human beings, we live in small spaces built in enormous buildings, in a city where thousands (or millions) of others do the same. Outside of said city, there is a whole nation surrounded by water and, on the other side of the ocean, there are other countries with other cities, other buildings and other human beings - all of this in a giant planet that floats in the endless space. Do you feel small already? And now, do the tiny things we let take over our lives matter? When we feel the weight of the rut of everyday life and the bubble around us shutting, we need to go beyond it and break free of the routine that blinds us of all the opportunities around us, that makes us forget what it is to be alive. There is so much more to life than the job between 9 and 18 o’clock, than russed grocery shopping and the dinner that never truly satisfies. We lack celebrations. And no, we don’t just have to celebrate the big dates. When we need spontaneity, the solution may be to look at the little things: even if there are no birthdays, there are new jobs, new relationships, others that come to an end. Any change is worthy of being celebrated, but the truth is that it shouldn’t even be necessary to get an excuse to do so. Being here is reason enough.
We already know that celebrations don’t have to be big events. Of course, we don’t say no to a classic party, be it at home with all the extravagance we deserve or the usual dinner at a good restaurant. But the real celebration is the kind that makes us disconnect from what torments us and actually feel the euphoria that makes all of this worth it. The real celebration is the one we find in the little things: it’s going to the beach during winter, it’s calling a friend and chatting for an hour (just because), it’s dancing in your bedroom naked after a shower, it’s running with our dog, it’s increasing the radio volume and singing at the top of our lungs. Are we just listing endless moments that we allow to be erased by the rut of everyday life? Yes, but that is exactly the point. If we pay attention, we’ll see that, in only 24 hours, there are countless of these instances that we probably don’t even notice anymore, without even realizing we are living through them. But they are there, these traces of a celebration of life - up until the day they won’t be anymore. Are we going to keep watching them run past us and ignore all the opportunities we have to toast to? After all, life is a party.
Translated from the original, part of Vogue Portugal's Celebrate Yourself issue, published February 2022.