We may live in different countries, speak different languages and eat different foods but something that always brings people together is the desire to celebrate! 
 
In saying this, celebrations can also be solemn observances – a celebration of someone’s life, Remembrance Day, National Sorry Day and ANZAC day are some examples. 
 
Celebrations are acknowledgements of a special day or event that is significant to you and your family, whether it be a national holiday, winning a game or simply a day of beautiful weather. 
 
When my son took his first steps, we celebrated by going out for dinner. When my husband got a promotion at work, we celebrated long into the night. When I got my first job after maternity leave, we celebrated with family and friends – unfortunately, this particular celebration turned into everyone consoling me about returning to work, reassuring me that ‘mum guilt’ was completely normal and ok! 
 
As the mother of a recent one-year-old, I thought my son’s first birthday was going to be very informal and relaxed, with a couple of close friends over for a nice celebratory afternoon. But soon some family members (who shall remain nameless!) told me I would regret not celebrating his birthday “properly”.  Before I knew it, I was deep into planning and organising mode. A jungle theme, entertainment, balloon garlands, and baking a chocolate and caramel, cream-filled, 4 -layered birthday cake (which I was highly unqualified to do). Add to that the gift bags for the 15 extra children I invited at the last-minute, because I couldn’t bear the fact that my son might not have a “proper” first birthday party! In the end, whether it had been celebrated with just a few friends or as in my case, an over-the-top first birthday event, this celebration brought my loved ones together. I recall looking around my backyard and seeing smiles, laughter and hugs (pre-COVID) and feeling a great sense of family. 
 
One of my Korean friends that attended this extravaganza of an event, told me how they celebrate first birthdays in Korea. Did you know Korean babies celebrating their first birthday are surrounded by significant objects and whatever they reach for first is thought to be especially telling? The child is dressed up, then a range of things — including fruit, rice, calligraphy brushes and money — are placed within their reach. What the child chooses to grab first is supposed to predict their future. Choosing a mirror might mean they will grow up to be vain, rice connotes wealth, and calligraphy brushes indicate a thirst for knowledge. After the item-picking ceremony, the birthday baby and guests celebrate by eating sweet rice cakes.
 
There are art festivals, moon celebrations, new year’s parties and so many other reasons that bring family and friends together in one place, to uplift one another and carry-on traditions that have been around for many generations. From the Lantern Festival of Chiang Mai, to Summer Moon Parties in Greece, to a Japanese Flower Show, each culture has their own special celebrations and traditions. 
 
I was lucky enough to travel the world during my twenties; along the way I took part in numerous cultural festivals and celebrations. One of my favourites was the Songkran Water Festival – this is a celebration of the Thai New Year. It takes place in mid-April and features the most epic water fights you have ever seen! People fill the streets to literally shower one another with buckets of water and take aim at their fun-loving pals, as a symbol of good health and fortune.
 
My good friend is from Nepal and every year we take part in one of their special celebrations, the Holi Festival of Colour. This is another of my favourite festivals – a Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring. In Nepal on the day of Holi, entire streets and towns turn red, green and yellow as people throw coloured powder into the air and onto others. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. 
 
In the last 10 years I have been lucky to experience many celebrations: during my travels near and far, eloping to New York with my husband, welcoming new babies of friends and family, having a baby myself, and also celebrating the lives of loved ones we have lost. During all of this, the one common denominator I’ve experienced is a sense of togetherness.
 
I have come to learn that appreciating and sharing in joyous occasions is a necessity in our lives. Whether it is a small win or a major milestone, celebrating is important because it boosts our happiness and wellbeing. It allows us to soak up the moment and foster connections with others, and can positively impact our overall attitude and gratitude for what we have – and I’m thankful for it!
 
 
Blog Post by Jayme Wilson, Field Support Officer – Play Steps