Party to Celebrate Community

Party to Celebrate Community

When’s the last time you went to a great party? I mean, a really great party? One you spent weeks preparing for – thinking of what to wear, picking out the right present, maybe even helping to plan the food and decorations. A party that lasted long into the night and was talked about for weeks afterwards. 

For me, it was a quinceanera a few years ago. Our Brazilian friends’ daughter was turning fifteen and they weren’t about to let the fact that they lived in China stop them from throwing a proper full-blown Brazilian quinceanera. They prepared for the event for months, picking out the venue, the menu, the favors, the cake. There were gorgeous invitations and stunning special-order dresses. They had friends and family in Brazil record video messages for their daughter. Every detail was planned with care and attention (and sometimes stress and hand-wringing).

We guests also had preparations of our own. We were picking out gifts, figuring out formal attire in a land where women’s shoe sizes stop around US 7, and booking hotel rooms. Everyone was looking forward to the big night.

When it finally arrived, the party was non-stop fun. There was dinner and dancing late into the night. Everyone looked fabulous. For weeks afterwards, we looked at photos of the night. It was an epic party that none of us will forget.

When I think back on our time overseas, parties punctuate the timeline like big, bold exclamation points. Not many are as incredible as that quinceanera. Most are much simpler, but they’re all highlights of our time overseas. Parties are so much fun! 

But as I reflect on the parties we’ve thrown or attended, I realize they’re more than simply a good time. They’re a way to celebrate the community we’re in. A big event provides a way for a group of people to come together to commemorate something special. We can be together at an event that impresses itself into everyone’s hearts.

There’s something about all the preparation, anticipation, expense, and even extravagance that cements parties into the memory. They’re different enough from smaller, everyday experiences, as wonderful as those may be. We humans connect well with each other through celebrations. 

In our ever-changing expat communities, parties not only give us a sense of community, they also give us a snapshot of who exactly the community was at a particular point. I don’t know about you, but with all the comings and goings and hellos and good-byes, it’s tough to remember if so-and-so was there when such-and-such happened. I easily forget who overlapped with whom, or how long each family has been in town. 

But when I think about that quinceanera, I can easily remember who was there. The party is a clear picture of what we as the expat community looked like that night. Literally. We have lots of pictures from that night! 

Parties are a pillar of remembrance for us in a lot of ways. A monument to the community we were part of for a given time, whether it was a few months or several years. 

I hope you’ve had parties like that in your time overseas. Maybe you’ve even got some epic ones to look forward to in 2020. 

Go ahead and party. Commemorate the wonderful people who are in your life right now. Be extravagant in celebrating the community you’re in. 

Is there a party that pops into your mind that’s a good snapshot of celebrating the community you were in?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


  1. Amy Young January 1, 2020

    I love parties!!!! In 2019 we threw a humdinger of a 50th for my sister :). Her birthday is in March and we started planning it and letting all the guests know about it in January. As you said, the anticipation and preparation were so much fun!!!!!! I was just googling today (unrelated to this), how many parties are mentioned in the bible. I love that so many are mention and for such a variety of reasons. God loves celebrations :). Thanks for this post, Emily!

    1. Emily Jackson January 1, 2020

      Amy, I love parties, too! Your sister’s party sounds like it will be remembered for a long time. Yes, lots of mentions of parties and celebrations in the Bible. I’m glad for that. Happy New Year and party on.!

  2. Abigail January 3, 2020

    Yes, one of my birthday parties in semi-rural Asia comes to mind. And there are quite a few photos from that night. My roommate at the time even did my makeup and curled my hair. I wore a nice dress. I hardly ever wear make-up. I still find those photos bittersweet though, as after that time at least half of the families ended up moving away, some without much closure. Another friend I was very close to doesn’t talk to me anymore, which is disappointing for sure. Also some parties a Brazilian friend hosted or helped bake for. Those were so extravagant for sure. I went to at least one where I was the only non-Portuguese speaker. But it was still so fun. 🙂

    1. Emily Jackson January 4, 2020

      Your birthday party sounds amazing, Abigail. It’s a shame that the relationships didn’t stay the same after that but I hope you treasure the community you had at the time of the party. I love that you were the only non-Portuguese speaker at one of the Brazilian friends’ parties. I’ve been in similar situations, too. Somehow the fun and love make it past the language barrier.

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