I was on stage with my children. Behind us stood the punk karaoke band “Jerka Kay and the Copycats”. The band started to play “602” by the classic Swedish punk band KSMB. We screamed along to the lyrics and danced on the stage. Below in the audience were friends, family members and work colleagues. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed celebrating with my children and everyone else that Magda and I just got married.

Different ways to celebrate

I like to celebrate! Celebrating myself or someone else together with friends and family is one of the most fun things I know. I think it’s the combination of paying attention to someone or something and socialising in relaxed ways. The person being noticed may have achieved something – in my example, getting married – or simply exist – for example, when it’s a birthday party. Besides, we can celebrate different kinds of holidays – both religious and secular. 

The origin of celebration

I think the need for celebration is very old. We are meaning-making beings and one way to create meaning is to develop rites and rituals of various kinds. Celebrating life and death, initiation rites and partnerships as well as recurring events linked to seasons and religious ceremonies. All this makes it easier for us to keep the group together, to build friendships and create alliances as well as honour deities, people and what we value.

These days, the reason for celebrating often seems less important. At least in Sweden, the emphasis during religious holidays is not on why we celebrate a specific event. Instead, the important thing seems to be socialising with family and friends. Many of us do not meet relatives on occasions other than, for example, Christmas. I guess that celebrating holidays has a similar function in all cultures.

Rewards and dopamine

Our brain likes rewards. Andrew Huberman describes in the “Huberman Lab Podcast” how dopamine is the basis for striving towards our goals and experiencing pleasure. Research has shown that if we celebrate regularly and predictably, the effect on our motivation and drive diminishes. So, if we want to maintain our capacity to enjoy our celebrations, we need to create unpredictability.

An example of this is that if you want to reward yourself for running three days a week, you should not celebrate with a piece of cake after each run. In addition to the fact that a piece of cake can be counterproductive to what you want to achieve, your brain will also get used to it and need bigger and bigger rewards to experience the same pleasure. As Huberman writes: “The key is to celebrate your wins, but do not celebrate every win. When you succeed in reaching a milestone, sometimes enjoy that; other times (at random), just keep going.”

Painful celebration

For some people, celebration is associated with unmet needs. They don’t like attention or don’t want to celebrate anything for different reasons. There may be painful relationships in the family, which makes the holidays a time of sorrow and pain instead of joy. Many are isolated and have no friends or family members to share a celebration with. The need to celebrate highlights, in a painful way, that we live in societies that many times don’t focus on people’s basic needs.

Celebration as support

Personally, I cannot imagine an existence without celebration. Regardless of whether the celebration is about my own or other people’s efforts, holidays of various kinds or other events, celebrations are a wonderful break in everyday life. The celebration culture I’m surrounded by is also a support for me to make an effort to socialise with people. Without the need to celebrate, I would probably see those I like less often.

What do you like to celebrate the most?

Leave a comment below or, if you are a Premium subscriber of “The Needs’ Year”, at the online platform: https://empathiceurope.com/online/courses/the-needs-year/modules/week-41/


Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)

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On 12 October at 19:00-19:45 CEST, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Annika Thomsson. We will talk about the need for celebration.

Sign up for the Needs’ Year and you will receive a link to Zoom.

If you read this afterwards, you can watch the recording when you become a premium subscriber. Check the details HERE.

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