We need to party.
Parties, when their purpose is gift-giving, hospitality, and celebration, are not only fun, but essential in developing culture. This is true not just at Hillsdale, but with young people everywhere.
In a time in which it’s all too easy to focus on the negative things in our world, parties are a means by which we can express our gratitude.
What can we celebrate? What should we celebrate? Youth, existence, health, or, perhaps…fish?
Yes, even fish can be celebrated, as evidenced by the girls at the off-campus house known as Graceland.
This past fall, these senior women threw the first annual “Fish Party,” a party that “celebrates fish and fish culture.”
Michaela Peine, a senior at Graceland, described the origin of this party.
“I had a dream about being underwater and having a party, and it was an amazing dream. I was swimming from upstairs in Graceland to downstairs and a school of tropical fish was swimming by me,” Peine said.
Peine decided to live out her dreams by getting the Graceland girls on board to throw Fish Party — an “all-immersive experience.”
Everyone in Graceland that night wore fish attire from scaly dresses, to a fish T‑shirt found at Salvation Army a few hours before.
The house and its occupants were united in their respect for fish and fish culture. A projector pointed at the live student band displayed a moving image of a coral reef, and a punch bowl in the kitchen was surrounded by cups of Swedish Fish candy and Goldfish crackers. Students danced in the living room as the Phi Mu band, also dressed in fish attire, played a set. We were truly celebrating — not just fish, but also our youth. We were grateful that Hillsdale let us come back to campus, grateful that we could see our friends, and grateful that we could dance.
Fish Party also involved hospitality and gift-giving, the two other necessary attributes of a good celebration.
Peine mentioned this was an intentional decision by the party planners.
“The way you throw a party exemplifies how you live,” she said. “So when you give your attendees something, such as music for them to hear, cheap beer to drink, and good community on the porch in between sets, then the party-goers feel that they are being given something, and also want to give back.”
In return for Graceland’s hospitality, guests at Fish Party threw away cans and helped clean up or move furniture when needed. The gift was a reciprocal one, between the house and the attendees. The house welcomed us and we, in turn, through our willingness to celebrate, provided the house with a fond memory.
A good party both involves and creates reasons to be grateful, and gratefulness is particularly essential to any celebration. Although the pandemic naturally causes anxiety, or frustration, we should celebrate the things we have while we have them. Whether that be food, drink, or fish: celebrate.
Why is this particularly important in Hillsdale’s current historical moment? Last semester, an open letter was written about the “failings” of the college’s handling of COVID-19 cases on campus. This letter was grounded in a disturbing ungratefulness. Disturbing because there is so much to be grateful for. Even for those of us who experienced loss this past year, we can be thankful for life, for health, youth, good people, and community.
Gratitude is not simply a nice character trait; it is also essential to creating a change in modern culture. Take, for instance, the hero of the Lord of the Rings. The task of destroying evil was not given to the most powerful or the loudest, but to the character born out of a tradition of gift-giving, hospitality, and celebration. Hobbits celebrated their community with fireworks, food, and drink.
And celebration is especially necessary, because celebration requires gratitude. In order to properly celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or a wedding, one must first be grateful in some fashion. Grateful for Mary’s fiat, grateful for the blessings and struggles of another year of existence, or grateful for your beloved and the life you have and will live together.
Gratitude is a profoundly human act because it involves memory. It is when I reflect on my parent’s care for my sister and I, or the joy of my friends, that I am keenly grateful for them. Through memory, gratitude also helps us through difficulty. If Odysseus had not remembered his family and felt that gratitude toward them, he might have not chosen them over immortality, let alone persevere through his journey home. Only man can truly express gratitude, particularly gratitude to God through leisure in contemplation and in community with food, drink, and dancing.
We need to party, because we need to celebrate what we are grateful for. Do not party for partying’s sake. Party because you are grateful for the love of friends, this community and school, or even…fish.
Aidan Cyrus is a junior studying philosophy.