How to Celebrate ANYTHING!!!!!


This summer, I made a promise that when my Traditions page on Facebook hit 1,000 fans, I would select someone to win a Celebration in a Box. Inside this box, I said, would be a bunch of tools and resources that would help that person and her/his family celebrate pretty much whatever came up in their lives.

I also promised to blog about the Celebration Box, so that anybody else who is interested might consider keeping some of these supplies on hand, and trying out some of my ideas.

My philosophy of celebrating is that you want to excite as many of the 5 senses as you possibly can. You want decorations: fun, thematic things to look at. And you want delicious fitting food to eat. But you also want sounds — noise, music, clapping, singing, stomping — something for your ears to enjoy as well. Smells might come from candles, or the food. And touching implies that your celebration will be active, not just people sitting around, but people dancing, jumping, joking, laughing, blowing bubbles and playing games. All the items I’ve included fit into these five sense categories, and when you plan a ritual or celebration, you might want to think about them too.



Decorations: Several items here can be used to decorate for party time, including the balloons and the banner. Another good item to keep on hand is crepe paper streamers!

Making Noise: What kid doesn’t like an opportunity to make noise? One of the great things about special occasions for kids, is that it’s a rare excuse to go big and go loud, forget the “indoor voice” and break the rules about eating too much sugar. Ritual is life with italics and exclamation marks!!!! I put in some dollar store noisemakers, but it’s hard to beat a pan and a wooden spoon.


Having fun: there are a million ways to have fun and you probably know some of your kids’ favorite ways to party. Here, I have included bubbles, because blowing bubbles is my go-to 30-second cure for anxiety at any age. Also, there are pinwheels here. You will likely choose a game that fits the theme of your celebration, whether a holiday, birthday, or just a “You Rock!” occasion to cheer your kid on for kicking a goal, or kicking a bad habit. One guaranteed way to have fun is to hand out quick props that instantly transform people in a goofy way, which is why I threw in a dollar-store pack of stick-on mustaches. Mustaches are cool now — below is a photo of a bride and groom wearing them! (from the Offbeat Bride blog, naturally.)




mustaches--offbeat bride blog


Also included in my Celebration Box is a white paper tablecloth and two boxes of crayons, because. I mean, who ever outgrows the joy of doodling all over a paper tablecloth? Not me, that’s for sure. Again, there are various ways to do this, and craft stores sell those rolls of paper you can just pull out and tape to the bottom of your kitchen table. But you should also not neglect this idea with adults. True story: my husband’s ex was having a birthday and made a comment about being sick of adulthood or birthdays or both, and I decided to have a kid party for her. I taped white paper to the fancy dining room table, and put on crayons, and gave every person a silly hat and a goody bag — and we had the BEST time. This is what happened: everyone wound up wearing a plastic dinosaur on their nose…..

dino noses


Crescendo moments: at most celebrations, there is a “tada moment” when the reason for the celebration is expressed, the candles are blown out, or the one being celebrated takes a bow or makes a speech. Do it with energy, passion and pizzazz. That’s why I included a box of 60 confetti poppers (well 59, because I needed one badly) in the Celebration Box. The reason I included the star-shaped cookie cutter is so when you need to shine a spotlight on your kid, for a big birthday or an everyday accomplishment, you have a quick way to react: just cut out a brownie and stick a candle in the center (or make tomorrow’s PB&J sandwich on star-shaped bread).



Toast Like a Pro: While we’re on the topic of ta-da moments, I want to share some good advice about making effective toasts at any age. This is a good social skill to pass on, right? And little kids LOVE to clink glasses together and connect — literally and emotionally — even when they are still drinking out of sippie cups. So here is a blog post from the Wall Street Journal called “How to Give Really Good Toasts.” It’s funny because the guy is a writer for the Simpsons tv show, but I think the advice is spot-on. (Amy Nelson, the mom who won the Celebration Box, you don’t need to click on the link. I put a printout of the blog post in the box.)



There you have it!!! I hope this post will give you some food for thought about what celebration staples you might keep on hand, so whenever you need to celebrate something on short notice, you will be up to the task.

One more piece of advice: I’m a sucker for the tradition of “Special” plates. Some families have a special plate for the birthday boy or girl, which is fun. Others have a more generic “You are Special” plate, or one that might say “Celebrate!” on it. Maybe I love this tradition so much because of the plate my mother gave me several decades ago, after I graduated from college and headed off into the world. This plate is decorated with a smiling face, so that no matter how many meals I ended up eating at home alone as I began my career, there would always be a face smiling back at me! This is one celebration staple I’ll never be without.


Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are YOUR celebration staples? I’m going to put together another Celebration Box when my Facebook page hits 2,000. What should I put in next time?

Note: You can get tons more ideas about how to celebrate everything from families all over the country interviewed for my latest book. Find it on, at your local independent bookstore, or the library. Library Journal said this book “belongs in every child’s home.”


Postscript: When winner Amy Nelson opened the Celebration Box with her kids, they got right into the spirit, immediately trying out the stick-on mustaches! How will you celebrate life at your house?



Family Traditions for a Grieving Nation

The senseless slaughter of 20 innocent schoolchildren just 10 days before Christmas Eve has left a nation of parents weeping. We feel hopeless and helpless, and fear for the safety of our own kids.






But we aren’t helpless. That urge we feel to hug harder is not just primal, but powerfully effective. The comfort that we can give to our children — and ourselves — by clinging to our daily and holiday traditions is not transient. 

No, we can’t promise there will never be another madman with a gun. But we can start to heal by using our traditions to celebrate the love and closeness we have now.

Psychological studies have shown that if regular rituals and celebrations can be continued during difficult times, they give children a lifeline to cling to even in the worst chaos and suffering. I’m not talking about specific rituals used by a community to heal together from atrocities, like when the survivors in Oklahoma City gathered by a tree that had survived the blast and together poured water over its roots. I’m suggesting that, especialllly for young children, the most important ritual is the regular bedtime story and hugs, and hanging the Christmas stockings and making cookies, and all those comforting, familiar rituals. 












I read about a United Nations study of Bosnian children whose villages were bombed and their parents killed. So-called talking therapies did little to help these kids rebuild their psyches. But then authorities got the idea to help re-create some of the festivals and other rituals that had filled their childhoods, and for many, having that continuity to hang onto made it possible to go forward. 

In this country, studies of families plagued by alcoholism also showed an outstanding result: in families where alcoholic parents managed to maintain such regular traditions as holiday rituals and birthday celebrations, their kids were less likely to become alcoholics themselves. 

The policy issues about important questions like better mental health treatment and gun control must be addressed.

Bur right now, don’t just hug your children so tightly that they squirm, make sure you don’t neglect your daily your daily silly games and songs. Light candles and sing a hymn you all love each night. Gather around your Christmas tree before bedtime and talk about which ornaments tell the stories of your life together. Bake cookies, and share them with family and friends. 





You have the power to do this every day. And now it means more than ever.