Chalice Lighting
We come together today to remind one another to rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives, to resist the headlong tumble into the next moment, until we claim for ourselves awareness and gratitude, taking the time to look into one another’s faces and see there communion: the reflection of our own eyes.¬† ~ Kathleen McTigue

Check in Share briefly what’s been on your mind lately or your highs and lows since we last met.

Thoughts to Ponder

…Celebrations are…crucial to our spiritual life. The very act of celebrating anchors us in a deeper story… Celebrations are a time of looking back with gratitude and looking forward in hope… Purposeful celebrations will temporarily lift our burdens, connect us to each other and [to life.]
~ from

Some definitions of celebrate from

1. To observe (a day or event) with ceremonies of respect, festivity, or rejoicing.

2. To perform (a religious ceremony).

3. To extol or praise.

4. To make widely known; display.


People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions. ~¬†Abraham Joshua Heschel

Life has meaning only in the struggle.
Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods.
So let us celebrate the struggle! ~ Swami Sivananda

A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. ~ Paul Sweeney

It’s important that someone celebrate our existence… People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. ~ Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”

The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is in life to celebrate. ~ Oprah Winfrey

What do we celebrate?

-Our national identity, such as July 4th, President’s Day, Thanksgiving
-Our spiritual identity, such as Passover and Easter
-Life transitions, including births, graduations, weddings and memorials which can be celebrations of life

Why do we celebrate?
-Celebrations bring a break from the routine and give us milestones for noting our progress through the year.
-Celebrations allows us to get in touch with our personal, spiritual, and cultural heritage.
-Celebration reminds us that we belong to a larger community, be it a family, a nation, etc.
-Celebrations of events like graduations and weddings recognize our new relationships to our family and community.
~ Adapted from What do we celebrate? at

Spiritual Exercises

1.Read the article 10 Things We All Celebrate Subconsciously By Marc Chernoff
He lists: making a yellow light, lunch time, Friday afternoon, getting to relax, hearing the right song at the right time, finishing a workout, getting something done, sleeping in, friendship and having  a good story to tell. You might not celebrate all the same things, but you probably do have small subconscious celebrations everyday, can you list them?

2. Watch the film: Celebrate What’s Right with the World at, but you will need to give them your email address.) The film was made by National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones (it’s 20 minutes long, but you can get the gist in 5.) Try celebrating what’s right in the world or in your world. Think of who at home or work or school or church deserves to be celebrated and let them know. Notice if celebrating what is right in the world changes your perspective.


3. If you celebrate holidays this month, do so with a new awareness, being more conscious of what traditions you observe and why. Try adding something new to your celebration rather than going through the motions.


Questions for Contemplation

1. Is celebrating an important part of your life?

2. What do you celebrate and how do you celebrate it?

3. As you take a closer look at what you celebrate, is there anything you would change?

4. What celebrations are most important to you?

5. How do you approach celebrations when there are problematic or negative aspects to what is being celebrated, for example Thanksgiving?


Sitting in Silence Take a few moments to sit quietly and reflect upon your thoughts.

Sharing/Deep Listening Respond with your thoughts/experiences with the topic.

Reflection This is a time to supportively respond to something another person said or to relate additional thoughts that may have occurred as others shared.

Singing  adapted from Celebration by Kool and the Gang

There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you   Come on now

Celebration¬† Let’s all celebrate and have a good time
Celebration  We gonna celebrate and have a good time


Enter Rejoice and Come In, #361, Singing the Living Tradition (first verse)
Enter, rejoice and come in, Enter rejoice and Come in,
Today will be a joyful day, Enter rejoice and come in.


Closing Words

In our ecstasies of nature and friendship, sex and the arts, sports and thinking, travel, deprivation, celebrating and work, we are a channel through which beautiful memorable experiences flow, and we forget ourselves as we become that channel.  ~ Matthew Fox

Additional Resources
Homelessness is the Social Justice theme for the month of December. In this month ofCelebration, when being with our friends and families is so important, we should remember those who are homeless in our community. The Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN, and Project HOME ( are two of the organizations in Philadelphia that serve the homeless. Click the Social Justice tab on the USG website for additional suggestions.


From This Is Why You Get To Celebrate Your Birthday Every Year


1. Egyptians started the party.

When pharaohs were crowned in ancient Egypt they were considered to have transformed into gods. This divine promotion made their coronation date much more important than their birth into the world. Scholars have pointed to the¬†Bible’s reference of a Pharaoh’s birthday¬†as the earliest known mention of a birthday celebration (around 3,000 B.C.E.), but Egyptologist Dr. James Hoffmeier believes this is¬†referencing the subject’s coronation date, since that would have been the Pharaoh’s “birth” as a god.

2. Greeks added candles to cakes.

The Greeks offered¬†moon-shaped cakes to Artemis¬†as a form of tribute to the¬†lunar goddess. To recreate the radiance of the moon and her perceived beauty,¬†Greeks lit candles¬†and put them on cakes for a glowing effect. The Greeks most likely took the idea of birthday celebration from the Egyptians, since just like the celebration of the pharaohs as “gods,” the Greeks were celebrating their gods and goddesses.

3. Ancient Romans were the first to celebrate birthdays for the common man (but just the men).

The prevailing opinion seems to be that the Romans were the first civilization to celebrate birthdays for non-religious figures. Romans would celebrate birthdays for friends and families, while the government created public holidays to observe the birthdays of more famous citizens. Those celebrating a 50th birthday party would receive a special cake made of wheat flour, olive oil, honey and grated cheese. All of this said, female birthdays still weren’t celebrated until¬†around the 12th century.

4. Christians initially considered birthdays to be a pagan ritual.

Due to its belief that humans are born with “original sin” and the fact that early birthdays were tied to “pagan” gods, the¬†Christian Church considered birthday celebrations evil¬†for the first few hundred years of its existence. Around the 4th century, Christians changed their minds and began to¬†celebrate the birthday of Jesusas the holiday of Christmas. This new celebration was accepted into the church partly in hopes of recruiting those already celebrating the¬†Roman holiday of Saturnalia.

5. Contemporary birthday cakes were invented by German bakers.

Although the general idea of celebrating birthdays had already started taking off around the world — like in¬†China, where a child’s first birthday was specifically honored —¬†Kinderfeste, which came out of¬†late 18th century¬†Germany, is the closest prerequisite to the contemporary birthday party. This celebration was held for German children, or “kinder,” and involved both¬†birthday cake and candles. Kids got one candle for each year they’d been alive, plus another to symbolize the hope of living for at least one more year. Blowing out the candles and making a wish was also a¬†part of these celebrations.

6. The Industrial Revolution brought delicious cakes to the masses.

For quite some time, birthday celebrations involving sugary cakes were only available to the very wealthy, as the necessary ingredients were considered a luxury. But the industrial revolution allowed celebrations like kinderfest and the subsequent equivalents in other cultures to proliferate. Not only did the required ingredients become more abundant, but bakeries also started offering pre-made cakes at lower prices due to advances in mass production, such as the scene above capturing workers of one of the many Cadby Hall bakeries of the late 19th century.

7. “The Birthday Song” was a remix, kind of.

In 1893, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill wrote a song they called,¬†“Good Morning To All,”¬†which was intended to be sung by students before classes began. The song eventually caught on across America, giving rise to a number of variations. Robert Coleman eventually published a songbook in 1924, adding a few extra lyrics that would quickly come to overshadow the original lines. The new rendition became the version we now all know, “Happy Birthday To You.”