The last few years have been full of huge changes for me. Even in the last year or so, there's been another one or two.
One of the big ones is that I've fully acknowledged that I don't feel at home in most mainstream American holidays. They don't inspire celebration in me. I don't connect, and for almost a decade I had gone through the motions of celebration, hoping that something would spark - but also hoping that no one "found out" that I was one of those old ~grinches who didn't like things like Easter and Christmas.
I like some of what the holidays entail, but it just hasn't sit well with me that I was expected to take the whole package just because it was a normal holiday, celebrated by pretty much everyone around me. It also didn't help that some of those around me had religious ties to the day. Not only was I expected to keep up the traditions, but those traditions were conflated with being a Good Religious Person, or at least Non-confrontational. God loves you, but only if you're having a good time at the Christmas party.
This isn't to say I think it's bad to celebrate the expected holidays. It's bad to celebrate them, and communicate them in such a way, that they no longer become celebrations, but going through the motions. Forcing other people to do so under fear of punishment, no matter how heavy or light.
I have Celtic, and otherwise northern European ancestry. In searching for something that resonated with me, I turned to my genetic roots, and looked more into history. I found connection to the seasons. Connection to the land. Philosophy, spirituality, and relation to others, even far outside my "people" and place.
I found a set of holidays that actually made me want to celebrate something.
It's called The Wheel of the Year, and I'd like to describe it to you, and answer any questions you might have. I'm still figuring out precisely how I want to celebrate, and learning more and more about how others do, themselves. So, if I don't know the answer to your question, it will still prompt me to look deeper, and find out if there is one.
And shouldn't we all do the same?
Yule, end of December, typically the Winter Solstice.
There's still a lot of crossover with Christmas and Yule, so much that some Christians distance themselves from Christmas on the whole. It begins on the Winter Solstice, and ends eleven days later. There are different practices related to Yule, some more historical and "reconstructionist," and some more modern with crossover of several different traditions.
Yule, centered around the darkest time of the Northern Hemisphere, is about coming together to keep the Light alive. There are gifts, shared meals, and a focus on community. It's a time for me to re-assess my place in the community around me, and my connection to them.
Imbolc, February 2nd, halfway to spring.
This holiday is about the first hints of spring. Depending on where you live, this is where you'd probably sense the snow beginning to melt. This is when I'd start to see the snow lowering, and though the bushes definitely aren't happy about it, they're still alive underneath. I'd bundle up, take a walk, and appreciate my ability to do so. I'd also about this time be thinking about what to do with the plants I'd pulled inside for the winter, and thinking about getting more. I do that all the time, but particularly for Imbolc.
There are different religious connotations, including various traditions involving regional goddesses. It's more of a celtic holiday, at least in name, and corresponds to when they would expect the first lambs of the year to be born.
It's a time for me to think about things I've achieved in the last year, or even further. I have a tendency for poor patience, but once in a while when I do stick it out, I'm rewarded with a clear picture of why that matters.
Ostara is the Spring Equinox.
You might have heard the name of this one before. It's another one in high controversy in the Christian sphere, particularly because it also has to do with rebirth, and shares most of the same traditions with Easter. The name is a version of the name Eostre, the German goddess of light and joy.
Again, there are obviously varying celebrations of the Spring Equinox. I, however, would by this time be in full-throttle excitement for things growing again. Plant-obsessed that I am, would hopefully have what little garden space I have been privileged with in full hands-dirty mode. I've been blessed with a green thumb, the more I experiment, and it's also a time to be thinking of how I can bless others with my talents.
Beltane, April 31st.
This gets its namesake from what's traditionally the first day of Summer in Ireland. There are a few other holidays that share its time period, but for the purpose of brevity, I consider it mainly about... FIRE.
Not just in the literal sense.
It's about energy ramping up. Things blooming. Activity increasing. Things are alive!
What makes me glad to be alive? How can I share that energy with others? What do I care about? What makes life worth living? Do more of that. And probably have a bonfire.
As Our Lady Marie Kondo says, does it spark joy?
Litha is the Summer Solstice.
Or, as I currently relate to it, Beltane's intellectual older sibling.
Life and joy, and the joy of being alive, tempered with looking toward the future. Not only should I know what makes me care about being alive, but I should be disciplined enough on the other hand to know how to plan and understand how to get down to business.
It's the longest day of the year, and afterward we tip back toward things getting darker.
How can I show those around me that I appreciate them, and I'm there for them? Not only do I care about what brings me joy, but I should care about my relationship with others and helping them love being here, as well.
I might light a fire again though.
Lugnasadh (Lunasa), traditionally August 1st.
We're halfway through Summer here, and days are getting shorter.
It's a Gaelic festival at the beginning of what's considered the Harvest Season. It's named after the god Lugh, associated with truth, the law, and kings - therefore, as I interpret it, civilization.
The holiday traditionally involves sports, trading, and feasts! Ayeee...
I'm definitely on the creative side, if you couldn't tell, and therefore at times have trouble with the massive piles of paperwork that's required for existence inside the American borders of this planet. This, to me, is a reminder that while all work and no play makes a dull boy...all play and no work brings an impending sense of doom and feeling that I forgot about a form or two that might be under my laundry.
It's a time to recognize that I've survived the past, I can survive the future, but only if I appreciate both and put my resources in the proper place.
Mabon is the Autumn Equinox.
The name comes from a modern choice, the name of a character from Welsh mythology. It's the second of the "Harvest" celebrations in the Wheel of the Year.
Though I have a newfound appreciation for Spring and Summer, my heart is always waiting for the Fall. This is my holiday to completely change gears. Keeping hold of joy, but also discipline, I'm able to convert into the self I feel is the most accurate portrayal to my friends, family, and anyone new I meet. My energy is the highest, and I'm therefore most able to share my "weirdness" with others.
I firmly believe that everyone needs a little weirdness in their lives. It's what I was put on this planet to do - share the strange, encourage the eccentric, and overflow with inspiration.
I'd rather be a little weird than all boring.
This is my biggest "harvest."
Samhain, October 31st.
Again, probably a name you've heard before.
It's no secret that I've always loved Halloween.
In celebrating Samhain (Sahw-in), I bring most of my original love for the day with me. However, in describing the activities for each of the holidays above, Samhain is more of a time to stop. In the "Wheel," especially by those who use it in spiritual practice, it's considered more or less the "New Year's Eve" of the cycle.
The space in-between, where everything is more connected.
In a world, and society, that largely imposes patterns on to us -- demands we be normal, demands we live up to standards simply because that's the standard, everyone needs to stop.
Set down the newspaper.
Turn off the television.
Catch a glimpse of what makes you unique.
Catch a glimpse of why it matters to be weird.
This holiday is largely about the dead. Pop culture has made that clear to many. But aside from the horror movies and candy, and wiggly fingers talking about the "thinning of the veil," what does that really mean?
At least to me?
Every person is an unrepeatable phenomenon. Regardless of what you believe about afterlife, and whether or not it's one-way, the fact is that there is no person that will be duplicated. It matters to appreciate others, yourself, and where the both of you are evolving to.
And so, in my more or less total shift in celebrations, I've again taken hold of my own reasons for living. My own reasons for being joyful. And maybe also for lighting fires. Mebbe.
I don't have much ancestors by name to speak to on Samhain, at least that I knew well enough to risk playing with a Ouija Board for.
I do, however, have the newfound ability to ask questions I want to ask, more or less say what I want to say, talk to who I want to talk to, defend what I want to defend, and be who I really want to be. And I choose to celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which prompts me to focus more on things that matter to me.
I'm planning on going a bit more indepth on each holiday as we come up to them. Even if you have no desire to swap things out (which is your right), I think we all need a bit more inspiration from time to time. The main goal in everything I create is to make something that, even if we think we're familiar with it, is a different enough perspective to give us more appreciation and wonder. We need to go back to the time of life where we could appreciate everything from a cool looking rock to a birthday cake in our favorite flavor.
We need to have something we can appreciate like it's brand new, even if it's old.
If you have any questions, I'd love to talk about them. I don't know everything, but I love to learn.