We human beings love a ritual don’t we? We actually need festivals and rituals, it is what brings us together, strengthens our tribal connections, feeds our community spirit and gives us our ‘social glue’. Right now all over North America, and the Caribbean, families and friends will be gathering to celebrate the great festival of ‘Thanksgiving’. A coming together of huge historic significance to celebrate and give thanks for the preceding harvest. There is a certain traditional (ritual) fare, and many would hate to deviate from it. Its the same at Christmastime too. Here in Europe we have our traditional Christmas Dinner, we like to get together with everyone for a pre-Christmas drink, (and dash about saying “let’s meet up before Christmas!”) we put up certain decorations and in many families do things a very definite way . (I always like Christmas carols playing whilst I’m decorating the tree – and I always like to add a few personal lines into my Christmas cards – that’s my ritual)
But I’m not just talking about those family gathering times of thanksgiving, Christmas, traditional religious festivals, weddings, baptisms and funerals, (of any culture or creed) but those slightly rarer gatherings and festivals which in days gone by would have perhaps been classified as pagan. Yet all of these festivals and rituals originate in gratitude and thanks giving.
For example, when I was a little girl no one ever said “Happy Solstice”, or even mentioned an ‘equinox’. Now even the weather forecasters on the media refer to ‘Solstice weekend’ as well as radio presenters including it in their dialogue. It surprises me, and I actually find it intriguing, that in an age of ‘so-called’ secularisation we have more and more ancient rituals coming back into fashion. These quarters and turns in the season held extremely deep spiritual significance to the farmers and country people and I wonder how much knowledge of that remains. It feels to me as though even without intention the majority of our society are actively seeking ways to bring a more meaningful, even spiritual and social significance into our lives at a time when diversely we spend more hours in isolation with our laptop, tablet or phone making contact via social media rather than in person.
Some of you might know that I have had the honourable pleasure of being Celebrant to three wedding ceremonies last year and all of which included the most beautiful and very romantic ancient ‘rituals’ of hand-fasting and broom leaping. As the ribbons passed over the wrists of the couples they each said beautiful words and expressed their love and gratitude for one another. As they jumped over a decorated broom together holding hands it was a ritual of promise and to some extent another act of thanksgiving as well as celebration.The guests and attendants loved it, and for almost everyone present this was an absolutely new experience. Yet it happens to be a very old tradition, some would describe as ‘pagan’ because it was a way for country people to marry without the church and has a deep, meaningful , spiritual significance.
I absolutely love the whole idea of social gatherings for significant ritualistic purposes and long may it continue. I suspect that even though many don’t know the history or significance they will continue to hold the energy of the origins, and my hope is that gratitude and thanksgiving will prevail.
Happy Thanksgiving! (Let’s just give thanks for what we have anyway, whatever our nationality!)