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.