Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Christmas is not enough,"

said Lyddie a few days ago. I quite agree - I've been thinking it for years. We're not religious people here, but we miss the feast days. The question is, if we want them back, which ones do we choose? None of the major religions' feast days really speaks to me, and the children say they feel the same way.

What we want, basically, is a way to mark the seasons.

"Set the calendar in order and make the seasons clear." - I Ching, #49: Revolution.

So we plunged into Wikipedia, and text books and - well, the calendar, and started doing just that.

What we've ended up with - not that it's anywhere near finished yet - is something roughly similar to the Pagan calendar, in that there are eight dates which fit around the equinoxes and solstices in the same way. OK yes, it's very similar to the Pagan one, actually. We've just tried to English-ify it a bit, wherever possible. But then we Chinese-ified it a bit too, by appropriating one of the eight trigrams to each one. (Marrying the ancient East with West has always been a bit of a thing of mine - surely they were all talking about the same thing at one time?)

The Pagan calender makes sense to me because it's the old agrarian one, isn't it? People would have feast days to get together and do the necessary communal work, wouldn't they? Then make merry in the evening when that was finished. That's similar to what we've got in mind: when I think back over the years, the parties people have enjoyed the most have been the ones involving tasks, like pumpkin-carving, costume-making, or even just pizza-topping - no matter what the age of the participants. It's as if we enjoy a good nosh-up better for feeling like we've earned it or contributed towards it in some way.

And the more this project takes off, the more we'll need to get certain things done at certain times of the years to come - the same things people have always done, at the same times of year. We'll invite people we know, but not need them to come - there are enough of us here to do what we need to do. But I think we might operate on a 'more the merrier' basis, and see how it goes.

I think it might take a few years to establish these things properly and work out what we're going to do, but ideas so far involve decorating the house, dressing up ourselves, doing appropriate and specific seasonal jobs and bonfires and maybe even singing. Well, I like singing, if nobody else does! It's probably going to take a good few weeks to even start to work it all out. But Lyddie's happy that we managed to find a few more "Christmases" anyway.


Blogger Riaz said...

Christmas is a 100% Pagan celebration. There is nothing Christian about it and neither does the Bible say celebrate it. Christmas only entered western Christianity as a result of a compromise by Constantine.

The quote that some Christians use of putting Christ back into Christmas is nothing but an oxymoron. In fact some people even think that it's more blasphemous for a Christian to try to associate Christmas with Christianity than it is to celebrate Christmas as a secular party.

Celebrating Christmas was even banned in Britain some time in the 17th century.

6:18 pm, October 07, 2008  
Blogger Tim said...

"I wish it could be Christmas every day" ♫

How about using the quarter days?

7:58 pm, October 07, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh thanks for that Tim, it was an interesting read. Lady Day corresponds with Easter, doesn't it? I think we're going to do Easter, but with more emphasis on its original function, if we can work out what that is. We're struggling a bit with that one though. I mean, ok, it's eggs, but how do you base a day's real work around eggs?? LOL Was it the day they all mucked out the hen houses?! Hmm.. we haven't got any of those. Maybe we'll get some just for that ;-)

Midsummer day is on our list, definitely.

Michaelmas is basically Lammas, isn't it? I think we'll call ours Lammas because we're all such Tolkien fans but again, what was the agrarian origin? Bringing in the wheat, maybe.. We can certainly bake bread that day, but it doesn't seem like a particularly special thing to do.

And Christmas, yes we're still doing that but I think it will be more Yule-based than it has up to press. I used to have a Yule party every year, doing the log and everything, then mark Christmas in the normal way too because the children wanted to.

Riaz yes they just moved the feasts by a few days and called them something else, didn't they? Typical government... ;-)

7:30 am, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

It's interesting that in all the reading I've done on this so far, nobody seems too concerned with the agricultural functions of these feasts! If anyone's got any links that might be helpful in that respect, I'd appreciate them.

7:34 am, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Of course, duh.. Lammas is the one of the main harvest days, isn't it?

Still a bit stuck on the eggs though..

7:37 am, October 08, 2008  
Blogger these boots said...

Hello Gill,

Ooh yeah, right with you on this one (as usual). We've got it in the backs of our minds to do some regular seasonal-type celebrations too - and, like you, now we've got the land and everything we're thinking there's bound to be more rhythm with things we do at different times of year, and why not make a celebration/ritual of it? No ideas on easter, sorry!

9:13 am, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Lucy,

Yep, you'll be ideally placed to do it there too, won't you? I'll be very interested to hear what you come up with.

2:59 pm, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Tech said...

michaelmas is lammas yes just shifted along a few days, generally celebrated with a lammas loaf.

easter is ostara/spring equinox, all about fertility hence the eggs - not suggesting what you could do then to celebrate ;-) Simnel cake is typical fare for that time i think isn't it, along with nests etc - ours always like making the shredded wheat chocolate coated ones... Forgive me if I've the wrong end of the stick re the question, probably teaching you to suck eggs here (bum bum)

3:40 pm, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Tech said...

back again having rifled my library ;-)

"When winter meat stocks had run out, eggs were a staple food until spring produce was available, so th giving of eggs was a much appreciated generosity."

From the Modern Pagan which is, I think, the best source of info on the history of the festivals I've read.

3:54 pm, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Ooh.. what's a lammas loaf then? Has it got a special recipe? Hey I might try growing a bit of wheat for the occasion next year.

Yes, Easter falls right in the middle of the hungry gap doesn't it? I'm starting to understand why the eggs were so necessary. Not quite sure how that's going to fit into our cycle. No doubt it will evolve over the years. Meanwhile, we could do a good egg hunt in our field!

5:15 pm, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Heidicrafts said...

We have a few Family-invented holidays here:

The first day that Egg Nog is again for sale at the grocery store.

The first spring day where the temp reaches 70 F / 21 C.

The picking of the first tomatoes.

4:56 am, October 09, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Wow Heidi! Different climate, different culture!

I had to look Egg Nog up - I'd forgotten what it meant, because nobody drinks it around here (though I see it might have been invented in England.)

And... 70F in Spring??! LOL, we get the flags out here when it reaches 70F in Summer!

Tomatoes we could do, but that would have been September here.

Let me see, what could we use as our own red letter days...?

The first snow. Usually the only snow of the winter now - it lasts about 3 days. We used to get it for months! I'm not complaining about that change, but the teenagers do.

The first sweet mince pies for Christmas hit our shops in October, and the season begins straight after the shelves are cleared of Hallowe'en stuff..

No, come on - a real one:

Oh, the first day I can walk outside barefoot because the ground is warm beneath my feet.

The day the trees blossom - lots of apple and cherry in the suburbs around here - beautiful.

The day we first smell the elderflower! Then we know summer is here.

The first grass-mowing. The last grass-mowing.

You've really got me thinking now. Thanks for a great comment! :-)

8:11 am, October 09, 2008  
Blogger Daddybean said...

Not entirely convinced by the whole 'eating lots of eggs thing' as an explaination for the eggs-easter link. The egg a symbol of fertility/new life etc. isn't surprising. And there is all the Hare symbolism related to this time as well. - Maybe go on a symbolic hare hunt ? :-)

I assuem there would have been some planting rituals around this time as well. There is of course the old plant the early potatoes on Good Friday 'rule', Maybe a symbolic planting of potatoes, wwith a matching ritual around the harvesting of the first ones later in the year?

8:43 am, October 11, 2008  
Blogger Shirl said...

Hi Gill, I can't really help with the agricultural link but we celebrate Ostara by decorating an Ostara tree. Basically, a small branch or large twig that has blown down or broken off a tree which we anchor in a pot with earth and decorate with blown painted eggshells, dyed eggs and anything else we feel would look good on our tree.

As far as I am aware the egg symbolises fertility and rebirth.

9:33 am, October 12, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Could go on a real hare hunt around here Daddybean! Just to spot them, of course. They are amazing to see, aren't they?

Oh I like the idea of a potato planting ritual.

Oh wow, I like the idea of your Ostara tree too Shirl.

7:22 pm, October 13, 2008  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Surely Michaelmas would correspond more with Mabon, being on the 29th September and Mabon being the Autumn equinox, so around a week earlier?

Lammas/Lughnasad is in August so further away from Michaelmas?

*Anyway* I think you can't beat a bit of festivity in your life, however it presents itself :)

2:31 pm, October 16, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Nikki, I see your thinking and it makes sense. Anyway, I've just made a new blog about this (cos you can never have enough, right?) if anyone wants to keep track of our mission to "Set the calendar in order and make the seasons clear."

There's a page on it which shows where I'm at with the dates - much more work needed on that I think. But that's what the blog's for, so hopefully the plan will take better shape before long.

4:47 am, October 19, 2008  

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