The annuls of history are full of triumphant celebrations. Conquering generals from Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to Napoleon Bonaparte have thrown extravagant ceremonies and feasts following military conquests. Ticker tape parades across America following the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII reflect that this response was not limited to the ancient civilizations. In recent years, this innate desire to engage in massive social celebrations is embodied by the response of entire cities when the local professional sports teams winning a championship.
Tribal people around the world have marked the passage of time with festivals and celebratory events that usher in new seasons and years. Civilizations on every continent from every era have engaged in rituals and routines that celebrate military victories, political upheavals, personal milestones and religious events. Celebration is a driving force in the human experience.
In 2002, I was living in South Korea as that country hosted the FIFA World Cup. I watch the game between Korea and Poland in downtown Seoul, sitting on the streets with literally a million Koreans (as reported later by the media). We watched on jumbotron screens throughout the downtown area as the Korean national team beat Poland, earning their first ever World Cup victory. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the city erupted into chaos and the celebration ran long into the night with confetti everywhere, strangers embracing and young people hanging out of car windows and honking, cheering and weeping.
For a glimpse of the celebration on the streets of Korea scan forward in this video below to 2:36 into the video.
Obviously we do not limit celebrations to national and athletic accomplishments. The ubiquitous white tents that pop up throughout American neighborhoods in June and July indicate parties honoring recent graduates like an annual metronome. Birthday parties, wedding ceremonies gatherings, Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas traditions fill our lives with clock like regularity.
Simply put, humans are hard wired to celebrate.
In Ezra 6:16-17 we read the account of a celebration the Israelites engaged in to commemorate the completion of rebuilding the temple. “And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered for the dedication of this temple of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, corresponding to the number of tribes of Israel.”
These people knew how to celebrate. This was a party to end all parties. They held nothing back. After decades of exile, years of opposition and seemingly endless hard work the project was complete. The leaders clearly understood that the scope of celebration needs to reflect the magnitude of the accomplishment.
Notice how they celebrated. It was with joyful sacrifice. Livestock was literally the lifeblood of agrarian society in those days. Hundreds of animals were sacrificed for this celebrations as an act of worship and honor to God.
Great accomplishments require great celebration.
Several years ago my father took our family out to dinner at one of the nicest and most expensive restaurants in our area. When we sat down he said, “Today is a Celebration of Blessing. We are going to celebrate Gods goodness to us.” He proceeded to tell us we were to order anything and everything our hearts desired regardless of cost. That meal is one of my favorite memories. The term “Celebration of Blessing” subsequently worked its way into the Gianotti family vernacular when ever we decide to practice the principle of celebration. As the leader of our family my dad ingrained in us, through this event and many others, the value of celebration. He taught us to celebrate both as a way of commemorate a milestone and to simply appreciate the goodness of God in our lives.
As leaders, we often continually look to the next thing. We strategize, plan, execute, evaluate and repeat. While this cycle is good, it is exhausting and can wear on those we lead. Great leaders understand they must create rhythms of celebration into the culture of their organization. It is not enough to simply accomplish a goal or task, we must celebrate the little victories, advances and achievements along the way. And of course, whenever a significant goal or milestone is reached, great leaders are willing to celebrate in a way that aligns with the scope of the accomplishment.
Great leaders choose to create great celebrations.