What celebrations do for us

This week was Melbourne Cup. I don’t want to give it more attention that it already received or deserves but here is the summary for those unfamiliar with the concept.

Every year there is a horse race in Melbourne (but also other cities in Australia). A few horses with tiny jockeys on them run in a circle for 3200 m. It was first conducted in 1861. There are a few other races on the same day and in the weeks before and after but it’s really only the one that matters. The race is quite controversial, but there are a lot of people who take the opportunity to dress up (men= suits, women= flowery dress and silly tiny hat) and subsequently drink many very expensive alcoholic beverages. The race has been an official public holiday since 1873.

A public holiday

When I came to Australia I was surprised to find that there is a public holiday for a horse race (well, there is also a public holiday for a football match now…). Where are the historic holidays? Are there any aboriginal holidays? Are there other magical things people want to celebrate such as rain? In Japan, mind you, there is an greenery day みどりの日(where one enjoys nature),  ocean day海の日(where one enjoys the ocean), a respect for the aged day敬老の日 (where one enjoys the company of old people) and so on. Disclaimer: Japan instituted these holidays to give workers a few more breaks in the very long work year in the country. Some companies ignore them, who needs to appreciate nature anyway?

Let’s just have fun, okay?

Regardless of having a government mandated holiday, people obviously like celebrations. Even if they don’t particularly care about horses running in a circle, alcohol and nice clothes still get people outside to create culture and community. Partying seems to be what older people think younger people do all the time and the thing that basically stops once you have children. It gets replaced by “invited for lunch” and in Australia the occasional “Dress up”.

If one watches documentaries on television the question really arises: What is there to celebrate? All that bad stuff happening with the planet, corrupt and morally bankrupt politicians in basically every country, we should all be mourning or should we?

Celebration doesn’t necessarily only need to occur when there is an occasion. I think celebrating is linked to performing. A way we used to transmit knowledge, bond with our neighbours, fellow tribespeople and peers. Dancing around the fire, telling stories, showing our skill, all these things occur during celebrations. Nowadays with less fire and more boasting, but it still has the majority of the essentials right. Also, bad news sell better than good news so we tend to hear about the bad news much more than the good ones.

So let’s expose ourselves to some good news.

Celebrate more often (maybe not on occasions like horse racing).

Celebration is how we connect, it can’t be done by yourself with your phone. You can only do it together, so let’s get together and create some culture! 

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