Fetes and Holidays
December 31, 2003
It is that time of year for the "holiday" spirit to flow, and depending on where you live it varies according to where your geographical/cultural root and history reside.
Here in the west holidays have been a very strange fruit for me over the past years...and little by little I have pulled out from all the hub 'n bub of obligatory festivities. The only things I find worthy of celebrating are the times off from work and the days I can spend relaxing, reading, and time with my children.
Holidays from my generic perspective have been nothing more than another occasion to indulge in consumerism. This seems to me, to be the "new religion" and the main reason for any of the seasons, at least here in the west that is.
People around where I live get into decorating like there is no end. Outdoor lights is big and come in such an array of design and color as to bedazzle any passerby. Another big thing this year has been these huge inflated cartoon Christmas characters.12' high blow-up things to grace one's lawn, of which I have surprisingly seen many. It is amazing to me to see what people are willing to spend in order to look festive. "Getting in to the spirit," means "spending BIG money" and "giving" lots to exude your holiday cheer.
Please forgive me if I sound all too cynical...but truly I am. I cannot whip myself up into the sort of fantastical lather to participate in something that contains little meaning any more. So many people go into debt spending money they don't have and buy all sorts of things people don't need or even want sometimes. And I refuse to feel miserable if I'm not participating in some gala event.
I guess somewhere back there was a reason worthy to celebrate, and I caught such a glimpse in reading a passage from the book "Temple of the Cosmos"... most notably marking how the ancient Egyptians celebrated certain passages of time in harmony to their relationship with the deities that represented the natural cycles and rhythms of the earth, cosmos and spirit.
"The festival presents a clear example of how rituals were intended to affect the dynamics between the physical and spiritual worlds. The rituals were essentially magical rites through the performance of which human beings caused a particular moment in time to be fused with the eternal divine order."
Now this is something I can get with...and is perhaps a reminder of something that IS NOT in the too distant past but worth remembering even today in times of celebrating some of the reasons amongst the seasons.
"In a culture in which the physical world was experienced as transparent to the divine, it was a natural human responsibility to ensure that the relationship between the physical and the divine order did not become opaque through neglect of sacred rituals. The seasonal festivals served to maintain this "transparency" between the physical and spiritual worlds. They may be understood as deliberate attempts to bring about periodic conjunctions of the natural and divine realms, so that the passage of time continued to reflect eternal realities."
"The importance that the Egyptians placed on the celebration of festivals throughout the year clearly indicates the presiding characteristics of their relationship to time. For the nature of festivals in ancient Egypt was that they were always oriented toward the divine. The festivals were the principle means by which the people as a whole marked the passage of time, but their function was to transport those who participated in them into the non-temporal world of the gods. They were essentially the means by which the general populace could let go of earthly ties and be taken up into the realm of myth. Through the festivals, time was marked by the regular experience of that which transcended time."
Yes, this illuminates the precious functions of festivals and celebration...which was to transport those who participated in them into the non-temporal world of the gods. Not some drunken party where consumption, materialism, and rabble-rousing was the main event but rather to celebrate and honour that which was an integral and entwined relationship to the divine. They paid great attention to the cycles of nature and to the cosmos, as was marked by significant passages of time through these sacred celebrations of festivals.
"Letting go of earthly ties to be taken up into the realm of myth" is something we still see ones strive for today. However, we have a long ways to go before letting go of "earthly ties" and our "myths" have changed quite a lot since ancient times. Present day myths have taken on kind of an odd twist, for no longer do they tell the "conscious stories" of an ancient people, but have rather become an event where folks just insert their own stories, ad-lib their own tradition, and if so inclined, sprinkle it with a dash of religious flavour. Myth, in my opinion, has now become a collection of fantasies by which the holidays attempt to give off the appearance of fanciful elements by trying to project and fulfill wishful ideals. Somewhere in there perhaps was, and for some, still is, a divine aspect and focus, but for the most part, it is quite a secular affair with the "material god" at it's center.
"We have seen that in ancient Egypt time was experienced as inextricably bound up with the cosmic and natural cycles of the sun, moon, Sirius, and the Nile. Not only was time therefore experienced as essentially qualitative, it was also experienced in relation to the non-temporal dimension of divine agencies and beings who lay behind these phenomena. All the physical bodies by whose movement or change, the passage of time was marked, were regarded as the outward forms of gods. Since the gods are eternal, the marking of time in the regular celebration of sacred rites and festivals was a means by which the temporal world was periodically transcended. In ancient Egypt, time was regularly projected into, and assimilated with, the eternal order that lies beyond time."
Happy New Year!