My family planted trees for births and deaths. Of course, there were official events too, like weddings, chili suppers at church, barbecues if weather permitted, dinners, wakes and funerals.
I used every excuse possible to plant a tree, so maybe it doesn't seem that special. Still, I can look at a tree and remember, this tree is my Dad, this was my birthday, this one was for my dog.
The other commemoration are mostly gone for me.
What do you do? What would you like to do? What does it mean to you?
A great site! Food was always and still is the biggest part of our celebrations. We make a bid deal out of birthdays and the Wheel of the year including the four directions and the cross days. We started using these days in 1974 as we (my three children and I) built a new life in Spokane. Over the next few years I went on a hunt for different cultural spiritual traditions and fell in love with the Earth and everyone I talked to. I interviewed people in 32 nations of the world and if I had just waited a few years, I could have made this research on the internet. Here is a site that shows many different cultures and eras of human existence. Pagans and witches used these, as did ancient Egyptians and the Middle East. All over the globe, people marked out mileposts for the year, using seasons and stars and different developmental stages as the markers.
There is an idea - postulate or theory if you will - in anthropology. It's referred to as "life crisis." By that, they don't mean someone trapped in burning car in an auto accident. What they do mean is the various stages of life we all go through. Birth, and acceptance into society like baptisms or other birth rituals, e.g. circumcision. Puberty, such as religious rituals like confirmation, bar mitzvah's, Nigerian fattening houses for women, etc. Marriage, birth again, major milestones in reaching certain ages in life, and of course, the inevitable. Death. It appears to be universal to all people, in all times.
All cultures mark these in various ways. Food, and feasting, as Joan referred to, seems to be almost universal. And, this is coupled with various rituals to impress on people's minds the importance of the occasion. If impressed early enough in childhood, it will be passed from one generation to the next. We all do it - theists or atheists. Birthdays, a new job, or housewarmings (acquired shelter). We look to celebrate births, unions of couples, deaths, and everything in between.
And, why the heck not. Good excuse for a party!
Feasting is a great way to commemorate. There are some special foods I like for special occasions. Usually that means baking something, like pie, in the winter, or picnic food like potato salads or deviled eggs in the summer.
When atheists are asked how we could possibly find meaning in life without having a god for that reason, I think that all of the different celebrations and milestones we commemorate and give importance to are a BIG part of the meaning of our lives. These events, whether they be a celebration or a mourning, local or worldwide, bring people together to share a common bond. For me, current or anticipated events that bond us together give satisfactory meaning to life.