How to celebrate in hard times - Five examples from books, by Deborah Jenkins


As my slot for More than Writers is on the 11th, I am privileged, once a year, to post on my birthday. Well today is not only the biggest birthday I've ever had (imagine!), but it ends with a zero. I know!! I have to be honest, I've tried to be a person who embraces the ripening years with open arms and a love-your-wrinkles mindset. But it's never really worked.

Until now. The atrocities in Ukraine as well as elsewhere in the world, in conjunction with Covid, political concerns and the rise of Awfulness Everywhere has made me more sanguine about it. I am blessed. I have a faith which sustains me, a wonderful family, great friends and satisfying work. I live in a safe place, am relatively healthy and marginally sane. Above all, I'm still here. And for all the reasons above, some are not.

But how to celebrate at a time when others are suffering? Anyone else feel a simmering guilt at the moment when you laugh uncontrollably/go out for a meal/pay for something you don't really need? So I decided to turn to books, as ever, for inspiration. Here are some passages from favourite books about the art of celebration in hard times: -

1. ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. ‘It’s so dreadful to be poor!’ sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress. ‘I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,’ added little Amy, with an injured sniff. ‘We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,’ said Beth contentedly from her corner....' Little Women, Louise M Alcott

2. 'Suddenly the day seemed really Fourth of July. Ma made sandwiches, Pa blacked his boots, Laura and Carrie hurriedly dressed up. Luckily Laura's sprigged calico was freshly washed and ironed. She and Carrie took turns at the washbasin, scrubbing their faces and necks and ears pink. Over their unbleached muslin union suits they put on crackling stiff petticoats of bleached muslin. They brushed and braided their hair.' Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder

3.'He looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, 'She is tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men...' 

Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous.' Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

4. It isn't isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy, to make our service light or burdensome: a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks, in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add or count 'em up. What then? The happiness he gives (with his modest Christmas party) is just as great as if it cost a fortune' A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

I've lost my copy of the book!

5.'Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water; so they filled them to the brim. Then he said to them, 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.' John 2: 7-9

They did so and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.'

These remind me: -

  • Celebrations are about valuing others as well as ourselves
  • The rituals of celebrating - special clothes, food, events - help make the memories we cherish
  • Delight is still possible in the face of difficulty
  • Simplicity can say more than sophistication
  • Jesus knew how to party
I don't really like ageing but I love celebrating. In fact, I love it so much that my book contains a party, the kind of party I'd love to go to (you could buy it to find out?😉)

Ukraine is on my heart; I will continue to give and pray and trust that God is here. 
I will also try to welcome the ripening years but...

Why don't you drop a comment below telling me what your ideal celebration would be like. 

Go one, it's my birthday 😊

Deborah Jenkins is the author of textbooks, educational articles and a novellaThe Evenness of Things, available in paperback and as a kindle e-book.  

Her novel, Braver, will be published on 30 June 2022 by Fairlight Books. You can read more about it, and pre-order via the publisher here or on Amazon.

Deborah wonders aloud about the crazy, inspiring and inappropriate, on her blog,

 was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was so crammed with goodies. Then she remembered her mother’s promise, and slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guide-book for any pilgrim going the long journey. 

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