It’s no secret that I am a party person fueled by holidays, gatherings and the back aisles of Target designated for the next big celebration coming (the Peeps are coming!). Below these layers of festive displays though is the simpler truth that I’m really drawn to—the fact that taking time to celebrate memorable occasions in life is important and that much joy can be found in commemorating ordinary moments where celebratory potential sometimes goes unrecognized—or maybe we’re too busy to bother. With this past year more monotonous than most, I’ve found celebration even more important. Sure, there are the obvious occasions—the themed birthday parties and holidays for which the mail service stops. But it’s the in-between and impromptu celebrations I think I’ll remember most this year—the family movie nights, the tea party brunch, that time the kids turned our dining room into a restaurant, the picnics on the beach, the full moon ritual in the back woods, the family toast we shared over FaceTime. Our observances of these celebrations were more purposeful than Pinterest-worthy but still included details that made them special and attention that set them apart from all the other moments.
I’ve been listening to Kelly Corrigan’s podcasts lately and loved the one from the beginning of the year where she wrapped up her ten takeaways from 2020, one of them recognizing the importance of celebration. “Celebrations are unifying, motivating externalization of values,” she said, “They answer the question ‘What is worth stopping regular life for? What’s worth making a card for, singing a song for, eating carbohydrates for?’”
To that I answer, a special bath on a Tuesday night is. A note from a teacher that it was the best week ever. A new movie we’ve been looking forward to finally coming out. The first day of spring. A weekend cold front. The perfect barbecue weather. A goodbye, a welcome home, a congratulations on accomplishing that thing you’ve always wanted to do.
So we have our reasons to celebrate, now what do we need to greet them?
I thought it would be fun to create an illustrated printable of our celebration toolkit—things I’ve gathered throughout the years or try to always keep on hand to elevate any ordinary moment into a celebration to be remembered. You can download and print yours here, and I’ve broken it down and included links to some of our celebration favorite items as well as my favorite shops to buy unique celebration and party goods.
Special Dishes – Whether it’s holiday dishes, mismatched China for special dinners or a “Today’s My Day” plate to commemorate special accomplishments, having a few dishes to switch out from the everyday set is a celebration toolkit necessity. I love this handmade plate for special days. We used to love going to my aunt and uncle’s house when we were little because they had special mugs with hidden animals like these.
Balloons – Inexpensive and easy to keep some tucked away in a drawer, balloons are great for impromptu celebrations. We had dinner one night at my sister-in-law’s house last year, and we were greeted at the door with balloons everywhere, just for fun. We ended the evening with a big balloon toss, an event that marked a celebratory night with no reason behind it except that we were together.
Disco Light – We have this one (actually, we have two), and we’ve pulled it out for our red carpet pajama walks when we watch the Oscars, kitchen dance parties and “fun baths” when we turn all the lights off in the bathroom and play music. In fact, sometimes when a spontaneous dance session breaks out while we’re cooking dinner, one of the kids will run and get the disco light, plug it in and turn the lights off without us even realizing they left.
Pennant Banner – I love pennant banners. They add such a fun and festive element to any room or occasion. Several years ago, I marked our arrival to the cabin in Michigan for the summer by pulling a pennant banner out of my suitcase and hanging it between our little bunkhouse and a tree—a summer proclamation of “Let the fun begin!” Since then, we’ve added more every summer, and our Michigan magic wouldn’t be complete without our festive pennant banners in the woods. I keep this one and this vintage floral pattern one in my dining room hutch at home, ready to add a celebratory touch to tea parties, birthdays and beach sunsets.
Microwave Popcorn – Any ordinary night without plans becomes a special sleepover party when you add a movie and microwave popcorn, scoot the coffee table to the side and lay out some sleeping bags.
Candles – I don’t know what home celebrations would be without candles. The magic of dimmed lights and flickering flames says “this moment is worth celebrating.” Even if the house is a mess and you’re unprepared for guests, lighting candles sets a mood and can make anyone think you’ve been planning for days. Smoke and mirrors, baby. (I’ve professed my love for these remote control taper candles we have everywhere).
Poster Board – I always try to keep a couple sheets of poster board in the house (I hide mine behind the piano) for last-minute sign making. In the past two weeks alone, we elevated our family Super Bowl party by hanging some signs Lainey made, and we put a little more love into our goodbye dinner for Austyn (he’s headed to the Air Force) with “Good Luck, We Love You!” scribbled in marker.
Twinkle Lights – Really, the Holy Trinity of adding enchantment to celebratory evenings is Candles, Twinkle Lights and Music…Amen. I’ve linked to these many times (these are my favorite) and have several strands in our home. They’re not reserved for holidays, although we do level up our twinkle light game when Christmas comes around. String them across a headboard to create a magical little bed nook or hang them around a mantle, a bookshelf, a dining table at a party.
Crepe Paper – Another inexpensive way to say “time to party!”, I love having a roll of crepe paper tucked in a drawer somewhere for quick transformations to impromptu parties. Crepe paper is old school party decor. I have many memories of twisting it across the church basement kitchen for church celebrations that likely involved a jello salad and a tuna noodle casserole.
Portable Bluetooth Speaker – What’s a celebration without music? A good portable speaker means you can choose your favorite party playlist at any celebration from beach picnics to full moon rituals in the woods. I splurged on this one last year both for its quality and retro beauty and love it.. My dad has this $25 one, and it has surprisingly great sound. Let’s not forget the time he started playing “Snow!”from White Christmas on it to the entire plane as we were landing in Chicago for our Christmas trip, and our whole half of the plane joined our celebration.
Bubbly Drink – I love celebratory toasts. Even better, I love when my kids recognize an occasion as toast worthy and ask if we have bubbly juice. A bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling juice in the pantry or fridge means we’re prepped at all times for any toast opportunity that may come our way.
Champagne Flutes – Don’t forget the flutes! Fancy Nancy approves. Someone bought me pint-size flutes when the girls were little, and I love seeing when they show up in our photos of memorable toasts.
Cake Mix – It may not be homemade, but it’s easy—a quick celebratory cake at the ready. How many cake-worthy celebrations are hidden in our ordinary days? I love when my kids’ eyes light up when I answer yes to their “Can we make a cake?” pleas.
That’s your toolkit—12 simple items, and you’re the master of celebrations.
To level up a little more for those extra special occasions, these are my favorite online boutique for unique party and celebration supplies:
If you have a celebration item you love or a story of how your own family made ordinary moments special and honored celebration in a memorable ways, please share!