We need to celebrate life. We need spirituality. Yet celebrating can be hard, when there seems to be a chasm between what we are celebrating and how we are doing it. What goes on in our modern society at times like Christmas and Easter seemed devoid of any meaning, Santa’s face brands everything, but no pictures of the birthday boy, Jesus. Nauseating amounts of chocolate eggs but no question ‘why the egg?’
Having a family of our own, my wife and I really struggled to see how these manifestations captured the beauty of these distant celebrations. I had a wonderful childhood and I did not want to deny these celebrations for my children. The passion and devotion expressed in my wife’s home country, Mexico, on religious ceremonies is a stark contrast. Ecstatic believers crawling across city streets on bloodied knees or nailing themselves to wooden structures. Not to be outdone in our part of the world, I have seen equally passionate acts at the festive season, in my workplace – the emergency department, with stomachs rupturing from the over enthusiastic consumption of just one fork too much Christmas turkey.
How were we going to bring celebration to our young children’s lives when the beauty seemed to have been sold out or painfully incongruous with our beliefs?
Initially, we thought we could invent our own celebrations- Whale day was the first day we saw the whales swimming up the coast, Frangipani day, the first bloom on the tree. Still fabulous days, they did not gain much traction. Then we discovered the world of Steiner and Waldorf education. Luckily, this prolific gentleman saved us from our need to reinvent humanity or partake in the creation of plastic landfill from exchanging gifts. We now had a template and a full calendar of festivals and celebrations that resonated with our family. More importantly, we had an insight into the essence and meanings of our society’s sometimes incomprehensible festivals.
Waldorf celebrates the major Christian festivals; the focus however is not on excess consumption of food, alcohol or plastic ware. The celebrations are times to reflect on nature, family, religious belief and self. The rituals are quite austere yet beautiful. They require much more fore thought and preparation and in turn seem more rewarding. They seem to tap into the nostalgia of my childhood and into a forgotten spirituality that comforts me, washing away the cynicism of adulthood and feeding a part of myself long neglected. They bring joy and mystery to our young children’s’ lives. It gives us a duality to be able to move within the modern interpretations of age old traditions yet stay true to our own way of being.
Significantly or not, I am writing this at 2am on the longest, darkest night of the year, the winter solstice. Lantern festival season is in full swing. The chance to walk well after dark through piles of dried leaves with an open flame and our children, singing songs about gnomes, has a slight risqué feel, like all the things I was allowed to do in my childhood that I feel now are far too unsafe for my children.
You may be reading this thinking “what mid 90’s drivel”. Try it I say. You might be the one with the mid 90’s concepts…
Photography by And the Trees