Monday, May 5, 2014

Traditions


We have a pile of VHS-tapes from Charlie and his sister's childhood. Mostly they are good fodder for laughs and shock and awe (bad 80s hairdos, smoking inside, the weird cinematography, the entire show with Shamu at Seaworld that's like a Greek tragedy with synthpop), but they also reveal something interesting about the middle class American family in the mid-80s. They are set to a specific rhythm: Christmas, Charlie's birthday, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, J's birthday, Christmas, Charlie's birthday and so on…punctuated only by a trip to the beach, to Alaska, Hawaii, or…Seaworld.

Each Christmas little J and Charlie run into the living room, followed by their mother who is clearly still sleepy, and tear into a huge pile of presents. At easter, they wander in to find Easter baskets filled to the brim with chocolate eggs and bunnies.

This year, the after Easter, a woman about my age came to my work and while she was ordering, tossed out a rhetorical question wondering why there were bunnies and eggs associated with Easter? No, really. Further more, she was puzzled and delighted to find out that there was in fact an older tradition than the current Christian one associated with the season. "Now I feel like I can celebrate it!" I nodded and smiled and thought to myself how sad it was that this person needed some sort of permission to celebrate the changing of the seasons, the rebirth of this hemisphere.

The holidays, whatever they maybe, give the year it's shape, but it's the traditions that give them a meaning. To me it was never just the chocolate eggs, it was  the witching that made Easter special, just like setting up my make-shift manger and taking candles to the cemetery was just as much a part of Christmas as the presents. Don't get me wrong, I loved the presents, but they were not the whole tradition.

Often, we have lost the original meaning the holiday had for our people and are following just the empty shells of a tradition, like actors in a particularly worn-out play. That's why Christmas is stressful, because we can't get the costumes quite right, find the props, or usher all of the players onto the stage at the same time.

It is up to us to rediscover and reinvent the holidays and their meanings for ourselves and our kids.

May Day is one of the ones that I'm never able to overlook. Each year I tell myself not to worry
about it, because mostly, no one else in this country does, and then at the last minute I'm calling friends and organizing potlucks and bonfires.  I feel an inborn need to celebrate it. We're still forming our tradition, year to year, but it is important to me to mark the day. April is over, summer is almost here.


I made Finnish May Day mead, decorated the garden, we danced around a makeshift Maypole from our neighbors to the beat of a horn, an accordion and a box drum. Last year, we had a picnic on the beach, yet neither of these things seems out of order for the same celebration. Perhaps that is the tradition; to celebrate, to acknowledge.

And then, of course, there are the traditions of the natural world. Last week marked the beginning of the dragonfly season for us, the first day when the tree peonies and Charlie's ancient Lewissiana bloomed.

Rufous and Anna's hummingbirds are getting more and more room in my journal each week, as are newts, shepherd's purse and fiddleheads.

Kate recently mentioned in a post an article by Derrick Jensen on Orion that had caught my eye as well. In it Jensen discusses how our indifference to harbingers of the cycle of the year makes us blind to the obvious changes that are occurring as the climate shifts and changes.

These too are the traditions that we are loosing; when the first butterflies, or tree frogs appear, when the deer calve, when migrating birds come, or edible plants push through the ground into our consciousness.

In times like these, we have to hold fast to that which is our tradition, we have to remember and share and teach them.

And most importantly, we have to celebrate them.

What holidays do you like to observe? What are your traditions? 

19 comments:

  1. Oi että,vanhat lapsuuden aikaiset videot ja kröhöm meillä kaitafilmit (siis kuinks vanha mä olikaan) ovat niin mahtavia! Mä olen nyt muutamana vuotena kirjoittanut aina keväällä ylös koska olen nähnyt minkäkin kevään merkin ensimmäiden kerran,mutta sitten ihan viimeistään juhannuksena on kaikkea jo aivan liikaa ja sekoan laskuissa. Nyt olen tarkkaillut läpi talven mitä eläimiä olen nähnyt viikottsin ja jättänyt kasvit suosiolla vähemmälle. On hienoa huomata,kuinka täällä kaupungissakin näkee vaikka mitä,kun on vaan hereillä. Vappupallon osto torilta ja sima kuuluu meidän vappuun. Pääsiäiseen vuohenjuustoperunat,pasha ja hertalle olen piilottanut suklaa munan ja jotainpientä puutathaan. Virpomista ei oikein täällä kylillä enää harrasteta itse kyllä kävin virpomassa pienenä. Tulipas taad juttua:-)

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    1. Anteeksi kirjoitusvirheet.

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    2. Eipa haittaa kirjoitusvirheet, kun itsekin teen niita koko ajan. Kaupungissa tosiaan nakee vaikka mita jos vain pitaa simmut auki. Itseking olen monet villimmatkin elaimed nahnyt vain kaupungissa. Kaitafilmit on parhaita. Meilla on tasan yks ja sitten vissiin siirtyivat video aikaan ;) Halauksia sinne kevaaseen.

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  2. I always miss living in Paris on the 1st of May, it is such a happy day there. Because it is a holiday, maybe you go out with friends and stay out extra late because it is so nice and the streets are full of that special energy of night time in spring, and then by the time you are heading home, people have already set up tables and are selling little bouquets of lily-of-the-valley that they picked in the woods. And then on May 1st people are so sweet and smile at each other in the streets for a change, as if they are all under a magical spell.

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    1. I know, I miss celebrating labor day in a big crowd of revelers too!

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  3. I was fortunate that my mom always paid special attention to the traditional meaning of holidays - it didn't make as much sense to me when I was younger, and influenced by friends who were more occupied with what they were receiving versus the origin of the holiday, but now as an adult, I have an extra-special appreciation for my mom passing that knowledge on to us.

    I saw photographs of a local cidery that had a full-out May Day celebration, and I thought it was such a magical thing to do!

    I've been noticing the dragonflies, as well. They're such magical creatures.

    Happy belated May Day!

    M.

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    1. I've been noticing lots of dragonflies too! Did you end up going to the cidery?

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  4. As far as holidays go, I have become jaded in my adult life. Partially due to my retail jobs and just an inherent disgust in consumerism. I have problems taking part, and as I am not religious I don't have that to fall back on. I just see every major holiday as someone trying to make money. I could rant forever about the commercialization of the holidays, but I won't. Because a large part of my anti-holiday vibe is because I am so far away from family and my closest friends. I'd love to take part or host summer solstice parties, but I have no like minded cohorts to revel in it with me.

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    1. Totally, working in retail made me have secondhand christmas stress, but it's partly why I'm so keen on celebrating in a non-consumerist, make-your-ow-tradition kind of way. Reclaiming something that's meaningful from the wreckage of consumerist culture is key to our survival in this world. I know it can be hard to find like-minded folk to party with without a ready-made community, but I'd recommend you just invite a few friends for a "party" and just do a fun little traditional thing, without feeling awkward about it. I've done that before and once people get over their "embarrassment" most enjoy "silly" little rituals or an intention for a gathering. I hope you can have a Solstice time this year.

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  5. May 1st. in DK is to celebrat The international workers day - I never liked that day as people are getting drunk and very negative as fare as I can remember back.

    I love your idea of Finnish May Day celebrating april is over and summer on it´s way much more. The holidays I try to take as easy as possible - I have been there running around at x-mas making sure my girls got every thing they wanted and it was awful. Apprx 6 years ago I deciced to stop and now the days are more cozy and at ease.

    Lovely pictures.

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    1. I know, it's the same in Finland and I like the acknowledgement of workers in a national holiday. It's nice to have multiple meanings too. I agree with you about Christmas holidays are what we make them.

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  6. I let go of my christian upbringing a few years ago and found my way in new paganism. Celebrating nature, the changing of the seasons and the waxing and waning of light - I finally found the purpose of celebrating certain holidays again instead of just reliving empty traditions devoid of meaning. Really celebrating and being thankful, perceiving and realizing what happens all around us.

    We became parents last year to twin boys and now we're facing the challenge of creating meaningful traditions for them. My husband is also not christian, so we're free of expectations and we're both looking forward to discover and create our own celebrations and traditions with them.

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    1. Creating meaningful traditions for your family is so key to creating a continuum of seasons for your kids and grown ups. Funny thing is, kids don't know what to expect, they'll be stoked on almost anything we create. It's often us adults who have hangups about traditions. Hope you and your partner have a grand time making your own sweet rhythms for your boys <3

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  7. the harbingers of seasons are changing here. it is unsettling and scary. my daughter used to tell people her birthday was "when the crabapples bloom." Not anymore. The crabapple bloom is past peak by her birthday. She's only six.
    Your May Day party looks delightful, just the kind of scene I'd love.

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    1. That is just unsetting as heck. So much has changed in out short lifetimes. And I imagine that it's hard to create those traditions for your small folk, when the world around them keeps shifting and changing. Sigh.

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  8. Yes, yes, yes! Traditions are living, breathing organisms and it really is so important to keep growing them as we grow. Celerbating the changing seasons is gradually becoming the focus of everything I do (work wise and life wise) and I take no greater pleasure than seeing people who have been looking for ways to recognise and honour the turning seasons finding that there are ways and means to do so.

    I celebrate May Day as Beltane (the Celtic name, used on the Wheel of the Year) and it's always been my favourite. This year I was lucky enough to celebrate in a few different ways, by myself on a hillside with ribbons and singing, then with my local community group sharing poetry, stories and chanting and finally with a large group at a Henge in North Yorkshire, with lots of drumming and dancing and wine (http://walkthewheel.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/beltane-musings/) :D Of course it is not how you celebrate that is most important, but the fact that you celebrate at all!

    Thank you so much for sharing your May Day celebrations!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your comment and your Beltane. I'm off to check it out. <3

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  9. I've been thinking about this too lately, since none of the Christian holidays hold any meaning for me and I never quite know of another way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than to take a long walk in the woods. But I'd love to make my own traditions, for lack of having any now, and also bring back some meaning to once-favorite holidays like Christmas (that just hasn't been the same since I became an adult). Love your description on why Christmas is stressful btw! I'm going to do my best to start making my own traditions this year.

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  10. Everytime I come here I find wise words and beautiful pictures!
    I'm Italian so yes, there are many Christian traditions to follow. I personally mix them up with the natural course of the year, season after season, moon after moon.
    We are made of these things:)
    Wish a lovely week*
    Sandra

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