The Gift of Celebration

Tara C. Trapani

Tomorrow is Good Friday—the time of profound grief—and Easter will arrive soon after, bringing the uplifting energy of celebration and renewal.

As a child, many of my peers detested Good Friday, finding it dark, depressing, demoralizing. They dreaded it and just wanted to rush past it to Easter Sunday, open their baskets of candy, don their new dresses and hats for church, and leave all of that gloom behind. But I waited eagerly for it every year, as it was the only day we were allowed to publicly express the depth of our grief and sink into the sadness. And as sensitive, emotional child in a buttoned-up world, it was a great gift, and I naturally, organically gravitated to it.

But I also learned the importance of what came next—2 days later, we celebrate, fully and wholeheartedly. It was my mother who taught me the fundamental importance of celebration if we are to emotionally survive in a troubled world. My childhood was…challenging, with a deeply disturbed father and daily isolation and abuse at school. My mother often says she wonders how we survived it all. But I know—it was the celebration. We celebrated everything—holidays on the calendar, yes, but also the first falling leaf of autumn, the eager crocus of spring which gave such hope, or that we simply survived this day. The harder it got, the more we leaned into the celebration.

Recently, I was watching a historical drama about the English court in medieval times. There were guests from Spain at court, and when the young king-to-be passed from a sudden illness, the Spanish guests wailed and sobbed and beat their breasts, while the English looked on, embarrassed and uncomfortable. And later, the Spanish danced and celebrated the loss and life and legacy of their own queen, and the English continued to be discomfited and disapproving.

I would urge us all to be more like those medieval Spanish. Many rituals are arising out of the collective eco-grief so many feel for the state of our planet and our Earth community. And we should grieve—we should wail and sob and release the emotion trapped our bodies. But we should also celebrate. “Celebrate what?” I’ve been asked. “Have you looked at the news? The latest carbon ppm? The species we have lost?” I understand. When my first husband died of cancer at the age of 38 all the light left the world, and I thought there would be no reason for celebration anymore—ever. But one day I opened my eyes and saw the blush of the hydrangea, smelled the sweetness of the honeysuckle, and heard the silly giggle of my daughter running around after the bubbles she’d blown into the air. And I couldn’t help but celebrate. And it saved me.

So, yes, please grieve deeply for what has been lost. And then celebrate what still remains all around us and in us. The light pierces the dark of our despair and carries us through.