Saturday, 19 May 2012

Bigger Better More Spectacular

Every year for the past 25 years our community has celebrated Yule. Not the Christmas hot mid-summer Australian present buying consumer madness. The real solstice, Yule, the mid winter point, the longest night, the darkest night, the point, (though it might not feel like it), when days will start to get longer.

We have a giant bonfire and an inside fire pit, flaming torches, candles and lanterns. Each year we have to warn the children not to play with the sticks in the fire -  carefully put wood on the fire but don't take it out or you'll drop embers. 

Each year we have a  homemade feast and we exchange one gift that each of us has made. We pick a name out of a hat six weeks earlier. The gift must be handmade, and even the littlest children are included. Every year it follows much the same tradition. Every year there is the same frantic rush to finish presents, the same secretive excuses to find a hat size or a coat size. 
There is a ritual to the gift giving. We stand in a big circle around the bonfire, and the littlest child goes first, round the circle carrying a lantern and their gift, until they find the person it is for. During the night we have a show-and-tell where each person shows off the gift they got and tells the story of who made it and why they love it. Every year there are the ohs and ahs as the story unfolds. It is perfectly magical.

About twenty years ago our nearest big town started a lantern parade to celebrate the solstice. It has grown to be a major tourist attraction, with sponsors, permanent staff, public liability insurance, posters and its own website. It has marshals and a designated route and viewing areas. I'm sure it's spectacular.

In modern society we have more and more organised "rituals". We have sporting events that have advertisers and betting and ordered seating, versus back yard cricket or kicking a ball where children learn social and physical skills, where they hurt themselves, or hit the ball into the neighbor's yard and have to negotiate its return. We have fireworks displays for New Year that are organised by governments. We have Christmas carols on TV and businesses that hire just Halloween costumes. 

But for me, rituals need to be real and personal to be meaningful. not bigger, better and more spectacular. One day I might go to the Lantern Parade, but only if the date doesn't clash with our Yule.


Marijke VanderVlist said...

Hi Linda,
What a great way to celebrate the longest night!
I did put in a reminder in my calendar, but was still looking for a way to shape these festivities, I’ve never seen them celebrated before. Thanks for the inspiration.
Cheers, Marijke

Wombat said...

Thank You for sharing the wonderful celebration of Yule. It is a joy to hear that the gifts are hand made and those to receive them are drawn from a hat.


Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

Linda that sounds like a wonderful celebration and what a lovely way of giving gifts.

Alex said...

I am inspired. Having lived in Australia for about 3 years now I must say that I find Christmas the hardest time of all. The celebrations just don't have the same resonance in summer for me and it gets me down to be honest. We've thought about Christmas in July but that seems a bit odd but Yule - that's something I could definitely go for. Hmmmmm - better start planning!

amanda brooke said...

This sounds great Linda. I love the idea of celebrating like this!

jimi said...

etI would certainly commit 10 on 10 for such incredible cognition.