It’s a week after Labor Day and I am surrounded by velvet pumpkins. The window box on my Philly rowhouse is full of (artificial) fall flowers and my entire house smells like the apple cider candle I have been burning for weeks.
Yes, I am a cable-knit-sweater-wearing, pumpkin-picking, PSL-drinking Fall Fanatic. But it’s so much more than that.
I aggressively Celebrate Everything. I love special family meals, theme parties, and festive decorations. If there is a season, or a holiday, or even a day out of the ordinary, I am there with bells on. Sometimes literally.
You would think that COVID-19 would make it impossible to celebrate, but it’s actually opened up a part of my creative side, as I find ways to include friends and family virtually, and make my home decorations even more festive. I take social distancing very seriously, so you won’t catch me at any pandemic parties, and I have already broken the news to my son that he probably won’t get to go trick-or-treating this year. But I believe we can still find things to celebrate all around us. I have already started thinking of ways we can celebrate Halloween at home; we’ll still be wearing our costumes and eating way too much candy. And if I can persuade my sometimes curmudgeonly family to have a dance party with me, my house will fill with the sounds of “Monster Mash.”
It’s not that I don’t know we’re living in the darkest timeline. I feel sad and anxious about the state of the world every day. I have a long history of clinical depression, so it’s not always relentless cheer. And, as a working mom, I especially understand how hard it is to add more things to your plate. There’s so much pressure to get everything done, and celebrating all of the things might not be realistic for everybody for so many reasons. But, for me, there’s something to be said for having things to look forward to, for making magic out of the everyday. It’s like the tail end of winter, when it’s still dark, cold, and gray, but you can smell the Easter lilies just around the corner. I think there’s a huge difference between slapping an artificial smile on and finding a light in the darkness.
There are a few things I won’t do. I don’t celebrate holidays where for me to celebrate would be cultural appropriation. I stay away from costumes that hurt and mock others or other cultures. I try not to spend a lot of money. Instead, I save and reuse decorations from year to year and I try to make homemade costumes when a situation calls for dressing up. And I most certainly don’t try for Pinterest Perfection. My homemade costumes and decorations definitely look homemade. Because the point isn’t to be stressed out over perfection or to be stressed out because everything has to be brand-new every year. The point is to have fun.
Finding the fun in holidays and celebrations can be a hard balance. It’s so easy to get overscheduled, overspent, and overwhelmed. I often find that the smallest celebrations, like hot cocoa and French toast on an unexpected snow day, or ice cream sundaes on the first day of school, tend to bring the most joy.
That’s why I am drawn to the small celebrations of everyday life. I don’t celebrate everything out of a need to always have something good happening; I celebrate everything because sometimes good things are happening, and it’s worth taking a moment to feel it.
So while Halloween is still six weeks away, and all of my Christmas plans are totally up in the air despite how quickly 2020 is moving, I am excitedly anticipating my chance to walk to my local park and hear the crunch of red and orange leaves. I am thinking of ways to celebrate the steps along the way, so 2020 isn’t a total blur. My house may be decorated a little early, but there’s still plenty of time for cider and apple pie. There’s still time and a place for everyday magic.
Caitlin Brown is the mother of an 8-year-old boy and the communications director at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. She tweets at @Caitlin_C_Brown and can be reached at Caitlin.Codell@gmail.com.