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7 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate a Special Event.


When I was a kid, there were two moments I looked forward to all year long: opening gifts on Christmas morning, and throwing a great birthday party.

My birthday party was always the biggest social moment of the year, so we’d go all out. Friends came over and we all had fun running around with sugary cake energy pumping through our veins. At some point, as we grew up, parties became less about food and games. Now, many adults want to relax and have a drink.

When I made the recent decision to quit drinking, I began to realize just how much alcohol and exorbitance is wrapped up in how adults have fun. If you invite people over, throw a party or go out together and there’s no alcohol, it often becomes the awkward elephant in the room.

As much as alcohol may feel socially unavoidable, there are tons of ways I’ve learned to celebrate a special event that are much more meaningful to me. Here are a few ideas to spark the connections between you and your loved ones at your next celebration, with or without money, booze and big gestures.

1. Invent New Traditions: Inventing my own traditions is one of my favorite things to do, because it makes life so much more personal. A big tradition I started a few years back was cooking an amazing meal with friends and family on New Year’s Eve. It feels similar to the way one might feel on Thanksgiving: thankful to be ringing in a new year with the privilege of food and family surrounding you.

2. Listen to Love Languages: When a big life event for someone else comes up, I like to do something personalized to show them how much I care about them. If you haven’t become familiar enough with someone already, you’ll want to read about love languages. Everyone has one that’s more powerful to them than the others, which is the one you want to practice when showing your love.

My best friend’s love language is quality time, so on her birthday we do something fun together. Usually that means eating pizza or tacos and watching a movie of her choice. My love language is acts of service, so my family likes to do things like take care of my dog while I’m on vacation or wash my car for me.

3. Give a Useful Gift: Buying the perfect gift for someone is hard, which is why I don’t try to find them anymore. Instead, I get people useful gifts. They’re often more appreciated because they can help a person knock something stressful off their list of to-dos.

My favorite recent gifts I’ve bought were a monogrammed luggage tag for my coworker who flies all the time and thermal slippers for my brother who’s always especially cold in the winter. Think about what your friend or family member needs.

4. Go on a Trip: Certain milestones in life are bigger than others, so take your friend on a trip for one of their bigger birthdays. They’ll likely benefit from and love experiencing a new place or culture. Consider if your friend has mentioned anywhere they’ve wanted to go recently, so you find a spot they’d enjoy.

5. Plan to Volunteer: What’s more meaningful than giving back to your community? My experiences with volunteering have been some of the most rewarding moments of my life. It feels so good to lend a helping hand to those who need it, which is why volunteering is a meaningful way to celebrate any life event. This is especially true around the holidays, when people spend their time at parties.

Skip out on the social pressure by spending time at a food kitchen or pet shelter. That’s when the most volunteers are needed anyway, since everyone who normally volunteers stays close to home.

6. Make a DIY Project: Another great way to show how much you love someone is to make them a DIY project or gift. When my grandfather turned 92, my sister contacted all his family members and old friends and asked for them to send in short videos saying what they loved about him. After she put them all together, the video was the best part of my grandfather’s birthday.

You can do something as big as that or make a handmade card. The time and effort you put into something you make is what makes the gift meaningful. Try out something new to go the extra mile, like painting or drawing if you don’t normally consider yourself an artist.

7. Enjoy Quality Time Together: If you can’t figure out a gift to give or something to do for an upcoming event like a birthday or holiday, the most meaningful thing you can do is spend quality time with the people you love. Let them know what you want to do, and then enjoy the time together.

Relationships are what make life worth living, so I’ve made a vow to take steps like these to establish more meaningful connections with the people around me. I hope my list gives you a few ideas for the approaching holidays.


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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on health and culture. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. You can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman to read more of her work and receive a free subscriber gift!
Kate Harveston