Apparently, millennials are having fewer and fewer parties. The author of that article blames it on various millennial circumstances— everything from higher cost of living to smaller living spaces to increased workloads on high schoolers and college students.
But people have been having parties for thousands and thousands of years. People have had parties in ridiculous and very difficult circumstances. People have had parties when they couldn’t afford them or when there was no room for them. Because there was a time when parties actually meant something. Religious holidays, feast days, coming of age ceremonies, marriages, harvests— all these things demanded celebration. People had parties, not just because they wanted to, but because they figured they should.
But in our increasingly secular culture there are fewer of these reasons to have parties and so parties have become rather meaningless. Now people rarely open the best bottle of wine because it’s Christmas; instead, they buy the cheapest wine and they buy it in bulk to ensure everybody gets drunk easily and quickly.
I’m not even saying that there’s anything wrong with this type of meaningless party. The nice thing about it is that it requires very little of us— very little of our vulnerability and very little of our committment.
But we must realize that the meaningless party inevitably leads to the death of the party. Because, ironically, whenever society takes something meaningful and makes it meaningless, while we might see an initial increase in the activity, eventually people stop engaging in it at all. (Just look at what has happened to sex in Japan.) If the point of a party is to get drunk, eat some junk food, and find a stranger to hook up with, why not do that in the comfort of your own apartment with Tinder by your side? Then you don’t have to spend any money or clean up anybody’s mess. When the point of the party is each person’s own individual hedonistic goals why have a social gathering for that? Isn’t that incredibly inefficient?
A party only makes sense if it’s for the sake of something bigger than each person’s own individual hedonistic goals. And it, therefore, only makes sense if it does take some sacrifice on the part of the host and the guests. This shouldn’t seem like an absurdity. After all, that’s how relationships and social life are supposed to work. You give some and you get some. It’s quite basic. But we seem to have forgotten that. Now, when there are parties, as the author of the cited article pointed out, people don’t want to have to sacrifice. Hosts complain about accommodating guests and their needs and guests complain about “having to go” at all. The RSVP has been gravely disrespected by our generation— many people respond, change, or cancel at the very last minute with no reason given; many people ignore the RSVP entirely. This, of course, makes hosts nervous and unwilling to have a party in the first place. The cycle continues, people rightfully start to wonder what the point of it all is, and parties stop happening.
But this is bad for our society. There is nothing quite so full of life the way that a good party is. At good parties we feel our spirits lifted. Time seems to stand still. It is as if, for a moment, we transcend time. We bask in the incredible and irreplacable joy of shared joy. I would go so far as to say that a good party is a little taste of what Heaven might be like. Without good parties, society becomes drab and lifeless. Good parties draw us out of our everyday lives and remind us what those lives mean. Most cultures know this. That’s exactly why, in most cultures, the entire year— everything social— revolves around the holiday season and its feasts. I fear we may be one of the first cultures to really lose that. I’m not sure I want to know what it will look like. Everyone sitting in front of their phones on their couches in their single bedroom apartments… indefinitely? I don’t think I need to explain how and why that is depressing.
Yes, unfortunately we are facing “The Death of the Party.” But it is NOT because high schoolers are too busy with college applications. It’s because we are afraid of the faith, vulnerability, sacrifice, and committment that good parties require. We are afraid to risk a little and pour ourselves into something a little bigger than ourselves. And that’s really sad. Because everybody loves a good party.