The other day a noble one wrote to me with a beautiful question, she said, “As most people around the world are busy shopping for gifts and/or busy increasing sales before the year end, what do you do? I am asking because I am curious how you would spend welcoming 2013 or any “new” year.”

Some others have asked me similar questions in person. Before I shed light on how do I celebrate, let me share my thoughts on celebration:

What and why do we celebrate?

Celebrating occasions by throwing parties is only one type of celebration, it is in fact conditional celebration. If one was not so deeply programmed by the society, religion and corporations, most would celebrate differently I believe. Individuals celebrate vacations, corporations celebrate profits, religious institutions celebrate their traditions. The only difference is you celebrate using your own hard-earned money, whereas corporations and other institutions celebrate on your money. That said, they deserve their share as much as anyone else because they are working just as hard towards their own agenda. They have just as great a reason to celebrate upon the fulfillment of their objectives. A degree of irony exists naturally in this world, it is perhaps required to sustain it.

Anyway, so, people celebrate what matters to them. What matters to them is not what really matters to them though, it is what they are made to believe “should” matter to them. For example, if you are a Hindu, Diwali should matter to you, if you are a Muslim, Eid should matter to you, if you are a Christian, Christmas should matter to you. If you can escape the above, you are expected to celebrate other such events as New Year’s day, Father’s day, Mother’s day, birthdays, anniversaries and so forth. The truth is, most of our fellow human beings have been indoctrinated and programmed, they celebrate what they are wired to celebrate.

How do I celebrate?

When your existence benefits others, even one person, you have a reason to celebrate. Whatever be the occasion, my preferred method of celebration is to be of some help, some use to those who need it. And that has been my style ever since I can recall. Conducting or participating in a ceremony is only one type of celebration. I would rather feed someone than flaunt something.

So, this year, between Diwali, Christmas and New Year, we distributed blankets, shawls, woolen caps and socks to the villagers around us. On all three occasions above they gathered and sang devotional songs, we made kheer, rice pudding and halwa, an Indian sweet dish. On Diwali, I told them stories of Rama and on Christmas I briefly narrated the life of Christ. The villagers are simple people, unassuming. They got overwhelmed on both occasions and expressed their emotions through sighs and tears.

Gratitude is one of the greatest ways of celebration that I know of. Celebrating an occasion is merely a social excuse. When you are grateful, everyday becomes a celebration. When you no longer need a reason — religious or otherwise — to celebrate, every moment is a celebration, it becomes a momentous occasion. Beyond the labels, the dates, the days, there is something profound, deeper, better, greater that exists within you and all around you. It deserves your attention, your time, it is worth celebrating. Life.

Someone, from a billionaire family, celebrated her birthday a while ago and she wrote to me. I asked her whether she simply spent or if she invested as well on her birthday. She replied that she celebrated in style and just spent. I wrote back saying I was not referring to money but karma. That, she was reaping the rewards of her past good karma but was she investing more to continue reaping in the future as well? When you just live for yourself, you may be celebrating but you are only spending. When celebration becomes synonymous to giving in your life, you begin investing. Your account of bliss and joy, of peace and contentment grows and overflows.

Go on! celebrate what matters to you. Celebrate life — yours and others’. You are a celebration.

Peace.
Swami

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