Food’s Role in Celebration

Jesse Bell Photography

When I was growing up, my mom asked me each year what I wanted for my birthday dinner. For many years, it was fajitas and chocolate cake. Something about this combination further solidified it was my day. I was queen of deciding what was for dinner and the day felt extra special to me for this reason.

The role food plays in celebrations is significant. Peanut butter balls are only made at Christmas, barbecues are indicative of long summer nights and Thanksgiving goes hand in hand with turkey dinner. Reuniting with a friend you haven’t seen in a while? Go to a restaurant. Why do our celebrations involve food? There are two reasons: we either celebrate with food or for food.

Celebrating with food involves a reward for or an accompaniment to an already great situation. When something good happens like a promotion at work, we want to reward ourselves with something delicious. You’ve accomplished something; treat yourself! Similarly, we nurture our loved ones with food by cooking for them or taking them out when we want to make them feel special, cheer them up or build on a relationship. For thousands of years, sharing food has signified trust and closeness. Nourishing another with food is an act of love. In these situations, we celebrate notable moments and important people with food.

Celebrating for food dates back centuries. Throughout history and in the present day, food has been scarce for much of the population. Having enough food to go around is a sign of abundance beyond sustenance, and it is a cause for celebration. Within cultures where agriculture was the main source of community survival and prosperity, seasonal events were held where prayers were offered for an abundant harvest. Over the years, these occasions evolved into festivals of celebration that feature the same themes of abundance and gratitude. Korea’s Chuseok Thanksgiving Day and Britain’s Lammas Harvest Festival are a couple of examples.

Food is one the most vibrant parts of a culture. A group or family’s culture could involve the belief that the holidays are synonymous with peanut butter balls and hazelnut crescents. To take these goodies away would not only mean they’d miss them, it would also be changing their culture. Likewise, Fernie’s culture includes its restaurants, food trucks, and food-centred events. Food is a significant part of the community’s customs and what makes the city the place we love.

The role food plays in celebration is deeply rooted. It is a reward for an accomplishment, an expression of love, and an important cultural custom that instills tradition. Sometimes, having sufficient food and loving people to share it with is the cause for celebration. Sometimes, the birthday brings the fajitas and chocolate cake. 

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