Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday Factoid: Holidays

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you celebrate any holidays most people in your culture do not?

Tough question for me really.

Growing up, the answer was yes. I grew up in the Bible Belt (in North Carolina) and I was basically almost always the only Jewish kid in the class. So the fact that we celebrated Hanukkah "instead of" Christmas was a curiosity for some of my peers, and I was pretty vocal about not wanting to participate in holiday activities that I interpreted as being from someone else's religion. You have to understand that they fed us Christmas and Easter in those schools like breathing; nobody ever thought for a second that maybe my family would not in fact like a photo in front of the Christmas tree.

Me, age 10, with my "little buddy" from a school program. Family was like "wtf"

The school basically gave a sort of nod to the existence of Judaism once in a while by putting the dreidel song in the holiday program and then proceeding to call it "the Christmas concert" anyway. Ya know.

People generally knew what Hanukkah was because they were used to thinking of it like the Jewish equivalent of Christmas, and most people knew it involved a menorah and eight nights of presents, and did NOT involve Santa Claus. But pretty much every other Jewish holiday was a mystery to people. We weren't extremely observant but every year we did Passover and celebrated Rosh Hashanah sometimes, and even Purim when I was very young.

The cultural aspects of Judaism are important to me because they represent tradition, connection, and family, but the religious aspects never really struck a chord for me. I treasure the celebrations I've had with family and love the familiar traditions, but I don't engage in them for spiritual reasons. (And haven't really participated actively in years.)

I did once host a Passover celebration in my house though.

In some of the years during and past college, I explored some additional spiritual traditions in the Pagan realms, and many of those stuck with me. In exploring what meant something to me, I learned a lot about ancient traditions of nature worship and seasonal celebrations associated with the solar wheel of the year and the monthly lunar cycle. I especially liked goddess symbolism and seasonal baking, but it turned out it was also for a similar reason to why I appreciate the Jewish traditions: they represent ancestral and environmental connection. I don't really relate to anything that requires "worship."

Winter Solstice 1999, at Fred's house doing a ritual

I learned a lot about mythology and different traditions from ancient times, but after spending quite a few years observing those rituals, it felt more like work than a relaxing chance to reconnect, so I moved away from celebrating seasons in such an overt way. I still like to change the decorations around my house to represent seasonal changes eight times a year, and still incorporate very old food traditions into my seasonal baking. So I guess to some extent I still "celebrate" those holidays and most people around me do not.

A Samhain altar in my apartment
And in high school, my friends and I had a host of made-up holidays that celebrated significant events in our teenage lives. Those were holidays literally no one else celebrated because they were invented for silly reasons. "Boognish Day" was the 5th of every month, and we would celebrate our love of the band Ween by wearing band tee shirts or the clothes we'd worn to see them in concert. "Bowl Day" was the 2nd of every month, but no, it was not a drug reference. For some reason we would get a big bowl and fill it with Sprite and drink the soda out of the bowl with straws. On the 18th of every month, it was "Yarn Day" and you had to wear a piece of yarn tied on your body somewhere. (Usually we'd tie it onto our shoes.) The 22nd of every month was "Pimpy Day." I had invented a cartoon character named Pimpy the Stud-Mouse and he just needed his own holiday. We would wear our homemade tee shirts with puffy paint drawings of the mouse on them. There was also a "Shoe Day" where my friends and I would wear the same shoes on the same day, but I forget what day of the month it was. There were others but I am not recalling them off the top of my head.

We were maybe a little weird.

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