Intentional celebrations are done by design and with a purpose. Intentional national celebrations include Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Many countries celebrate Independence Day with parades, speeches, picnics and family gatherings. In the United States of America, Independence Day is known as the Fourth of July. This federal holiday commemorates the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, when we declared independence from Britian.
Communities celebrate by hosting parades, picnics and fireworks. Families celebrate with cookouts, watermelon, and a display of the national flag.
On Valentine’s Day, people exchange Valentine cards and indulge in something sweet. School children exchange cards and celebrate with candies or cupcakes. Couples celebrate with a special dinner, flowers and chocolates. Friends celebrate with cards and a special meal together.
Valentine’s Day origin is unclear. One story says it is a day to honor a priest who defied Roman oppression by performing marriage ceremonies after the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for his soldiers. [HVD] Today, Valentine’s Day has become the symbol of love and friendship.
In the 1600s in England, Believers who desired freedom of worship were hunted and executed for their beliefs. English Believers fled to Holland. After a decade, forty Believers sailed to the New World. After many hardships, the survivors worked their land and set up trading posts to exchange goods with the Indians. After a year of blessing, the Believers set aside a day to thank the Lord for His goodness to them.
President George Washington issued a proclamation for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on November 23, 1789. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged everyone to recognize the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving” for our country. In 1870, Congress officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. The House of Representatives passed a bill on October 6, 1941, officially setting the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, and the bill was signed by President Roosevelt. [TTH]
Today, many Americans gather around their family’s table the fourth Thursday of November to thank the Lord for His bountiful blessings over the previous year and to enjoy their family relationships. Most tables have turkey and dressing (or ham), vegetables, salads, bread and pies. Relationships are strengthened through cooking, working puzzles, playing games inside and outdoors. Some attend or watch parades and football games, but most prefer to stay home and enjoy family times around the dining room table and living room fireplace.
Christmas is the traditional day to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday. The date has no real connection with Jesus actual date of birth, but it is the day which is celebrated around the world to commemorate the Lord’s arrival on earth.
Christmas is an all-around favorite holiday for many people, young and old. People and businesses decorate the interior and exterior of their home or business with Christmas decorations.
Christmas Eve includes singing Christmas carols and reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, either at home or in a church with other Believers.
For most, Christmas Day has the exchange of specially wrapped gifts with family members. A traditional Christmas dinner features turkey and stuffing or ham; cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables, breads and pies. Norman Rockwall is famous for his Christmas paintings of the family around the Christmas tree, the family gathered around the family table, and the family ice skating or sledding through piles of snow.
“Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” ~Norman Rockwell
In Western European countries, Christmas includes downtown Christmas markets, the ringing of church bells on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some attend church services while others gather only at home with their family.
Northern European country: In Norway, Christmas Eve consists of a meal with lamb and rice porridge. A Norwegian Christmas Day has ringing church bells, attendance in church services, then an afternoon of family gatherings at home or visiting the local cinema. [OCC]
Our family brings out Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, giving us four to five weeks of enjoyment. The Christmas season has us enjoying a few favorite Christmas movies (Little Women with Katherine Hepburn, The Nutcracker, The Christmas Shoes), eating popcorn and playing games (Chess, Checkers, Uno, Dutch Blitz).
When the children were younger, we would open their homemade gifts on Christmas Eve (gifts made from toilet paper and paper towel rolls, Kleenex boxes, etc.). Christmas Day had us singing happy birthday to Jesus at breakfast, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, then opening and enjoying our gifts. Each of the children would have one or two individual gifts, but most were “joint gifts” i.e., sowing into their group toy buckets or books for their library.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was spent playing games and reading books. These are some of our favorite family memories!
New Year’s Eve
Another favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. A few hours before midnight, close family and friends gather together. There’s delicious food and time to socialize with each other while playing board games.
The last half hour before midnight is a time of rising anticipation and excitement. Games are finished and picked up in preparation for the opportunity to usher in the New Year. In the last minute, everyone begins the countdown out loud. The countdown volume increases as the New Year approaches – 10, 9, 8 – with everyone shouting by the time you reach – 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!
In Spain, people are encouraged to speed-eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve – one grape for each time the clock chimes. This grape eating tradition promises good luck for the coming year. [GGT]
Australia experiences New Year’s Eve mid-summer, so they celebrate with a water display, aerial show and fireworks near the Sydney Opera House. [GGT]
When our children were young, we did a “home party” for our children to show them what a “traditional” party was like. We fixed various trays: cheese and crackers, fruit, various dessert bars or cookies; Queso with chips, carrots and celery sticks. We had a great time!
Even though most of the children have left home, we continue the “home party” though a much slimmer version. It is still a fun time of food, games and family fellowship.
New Year’s Day
In America, it is a tradition to eat black-eye peas on New Year’s Day. This tradition originated in the South in the mid-1800s and promises health and wealth in the coming year. Many make New Year’s resolutions which is a list of the upcoming year’s goals. Making a list of resolutions has been around since ancient Babylonian times. [PW]
“The Babylonia citizens would swear an oath to the sitting king or allegiance to a new one. Nowadays, most resolutions are not an oath to kingdoms, but are general commitments to make some effort towards self-improvement.” [GGT] Research shows that less than 10% of New Year’s Day resolutions are kept. Do you make New Year resolutions?
In Japan, the family celebrates by both cleaning and decorating the entire house together. They use natural decorations of pine branches, bamboo, and plum blossoms.
In China, the Chinese celebrate with the color red – red lanterns, red packets of money for their children, and some even paint their front doors red. [GBT]
In Italy and Russia, gifts are given similar to Christmas. In Scotland, New Year’s Day is their Christmas day of celebration as Christmas was outlawed for four centuries (until 1958).
Intentional International Celebration of Queen Elizabeth II
I want to honor Queen Elizabeth II who ruled for “70 years and 214 days as the longest of any British monarch and the longest verified reign of any female monarch in history.” [VF]
Queen Elizabeth is the second longest reigning monarch in the history of the world. The longest reigning monarch in history is Louis XIV of France. King Louis XIF reigned for 72 years and 110 days which is 626 days longer than Queen Elizabeth II. She reigned from 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022. She died at the age of 96.
Queen Elizabeth IIs Platinum Jubilee
Platinum Jubilee 70th Anniversary of the Accession of Queen Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. “Celebrating Queen Elizabeth and her 70 years on the throne, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022 was a four-day bank holiday full of events to honor the royal’s service to her nation and beyond.” As the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend came to a close on Sunday, the monarch expressed her heartfelt thanks to all her supporters with a letter from Buckingham Palace.
“When it comes to how to mark 70 years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.” ~Queen Elizabeth II
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family. I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come. I thank you most sincerely for your good wishes and for the part you have all played in these happy celebrations.” ~Queen Elizabeth II
Intentional Memorial Service or Funeral
Though memorial services or funerals can be somber and sorrowful, they are meant to be a celebration of someone’s life. Queen Elizabeth II’s recent memorial services were a public remembrance of celebrating her life as a servant of the Lord, queen of the United Kingdom, (commonwealth realms and sovereign states) and servant of her people. The family shared a private service to remember her as mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of twelve.
Intentional Golden Rule
In closing, I want to remind us of the Golden Rule, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” As you enter into intentional celebration with your family and friends, sow kindness, love, and joy. Show others how much they mean to your heart by valuing them through celebration. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just sincere.
5 Longest Reigning Monarchs in History. Published by World Atlas. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from 5 Longest Reigning Monarchs in History – WorldAtlas
40 Ways to Celebrate New Year Traditions around the World. Updated on December 15, 2020, and published by Green Global Travel. [GGT] Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://greenglobaltravel.com/celebrate-new-year-traditions-around-the-world/
Elizabeth II. Published by Wikipedia. [W] Retrieved October 19, 2022, from Elizabeth II – Wikipedia
History of Valentine’s Day. [HVD] Published on December 22, 2009, and updated October 4, 2022. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2
Norris, Rebecca. 20 Best New Year’s Traditions to Celebrate the Start of 2022. Published December 10, 2021, by the Pioneer Woman. [PW] Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/holidays-celebrations/g34787153/new-years-traditions/
Observance of Christmas by Country. [OCC] Published by Wikipedia. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observance_of_Christmas_by_country#United_States
Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee: Celebrating 70 Years on the Throne. Published by Vanity Fair. [VF] Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.vanityfair.com/live/queen-elizabeth-platinum-jubilee-live-blog
Rockwell, Norman. Paintings retrieved October 18, 2022, from Norman Rockwell Paintings Gallery in Chronological Order (totallyhistory.com) and the internet.
The Golden Rule comes from Luke 6:31 NASB.
The Thanksgiving Holiday. [TTH] Published November 23, 1940. Online publication by History, Art & Archives on history.house.gov Retrieved October 19, 2022, from