Some people celebrated Presidents Day this week. Others, Michael Jordan’s birthday. A smaller group hold today as a holiday of sorts — Celebration Day.

Greensboro resident and Durham County Schools teacher Rick Dillwood initiated the Feb. 21 holiday several years ago with a simple concept in mind: Candidly telling your friends how much they mean to you, honoring their trust and friendship.

“Loving your friends seems like an obvious thing, but not everyone takes the time to express it,” he said.

Dillwood, who is also a filmmaker, traces the origins of the holiday to 2009. After agreeing to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple down the street from him, he started to make a documentary about the process.

“On Feb. 21, 2009, they had a positive pregnancy test and I was there filming it,” Dillwood said. “After seeing the result of the pregnancy test, Mel and Carey (the couple) poured some sparkling cider to celebrate (hence the name) and, much to my surprise, they poured a glass for me. It was a small gesture that felt huge because it meant that they were okay with me being their friend and their donor.”

The day stuck with him, continuing to hold personal significance as a day he remembered to be thankful for his friendship with the people in his life. Two years later as the day approached, Dillwood was in the middle of a divorce.

“It felt like the perfect time to invest my emotions into something positive, so I spent the day talking to friends in person and on the phone, telling them as sincerely as possible how much they mean to me,” he said. “I think it took a lot of people by surprise, but it felt great to know that I was giving people these little emotional gifts.”

The practice, simply dubbed Celebration Day, became an annual ritual, adopted by friends he reached out to and then people separated by several more degrees. Dillwood prefers to spend time with people in person if possible, while other people feel more comfortable expressing themselves in letters or emails. What started as a private moment continues to evolve this year, even without formal marketing other than a short reference page Dillwood created.

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