Celebrating other People’s Festivals

Thursday, 21st June 2007 at 18:54 UTC 11 comments

Tonight, as I understand it, is the Summer Solstice. If your faith places significance on this day, then please accept my most genuine and best wishes for a great celebration of an important day in your year. If it isn’t of any significance to your faith/religion/whatever then enjoy an ordinary evening or whatever, but please don’t stay up for the sake of it.

Over time I’ve grown to dislike the fact that other people ‘celebrate’ my faith’s festivals with no real reference to the actual underlying message, or even with attempts to overwrite the original meaning with a new one, often construed as being purified to remove the references to God and leave behind only the nice bits of the message. Even when its just the straight forward “there’s a festival, I don’t believe in it, but I’m going to celebrate anyway” excuse, I get really annoyed.

I guess with Christmas, we’ve lost the battle a bit, and so I’m a bit more resigned to the idea that people totally disrespect my faith’s festivals for no real reason. With Easter I just find it sickening; no less so when its people closer to me (hence not spending the festival around certain friends). Thankfully I can still celebrate the High Feast at Pentecost and most of the low feasts without any interruptions from either the shops or drunken bandwagoners.

So I feel somewhat envious of the Muslims I see in Bradford; able to celebrate without many people getting in the way. Yes, there are some in the community who take it upon themselves to celebrate Eid with copious amounts of loud music blaring from car stereos in the early hours of the morning, but these do appear to be lapsed adherents rather than non-adherents jumping on board.

As to the Solstice, I’ve become increasingly aware of a growing number of people, mostly young adults, taking it as an excuse to drink copiously and do drugs. Like with Christmas (which many of these people also celebrate in much the same way) I find it annoying to see anyone twisting other people’s festivals into vacuous expressions of celebration; what are they celebrating? Nothing in particular? Exactly, they’re celebrating nothing, there is no purpose; maybe I’ll begin to wonder if they have nothing to celebrate.

Celebration for celebrations sake is just one of the things I really feel shows just how vacuous out entire society has become. Go create your own festivals, find something you really do want to celebrate; there must be something out there worth choosing. Don’t take other people’s festivals as your excuse to drink, and please don’t take those festivals and strip their meaning of its real content.

And if this real is your festival, have an amazing and inspired time, and may you know great peace and excitement throughout the night.


Entry filed under: Culture, Theology.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aurora51  |  Thursday, 21st June 2007 at 19:58 UTC

    Good point! Celebration for what? but a very good reason for their “habits”…
    with love…

  • 2. tiggs  |  Thursday, 21st June 2007 at 20:59 UTC

    Why is it inappropriate to celebrate Eid by having fun with your friends(As I’m sure the young people who drive around feel they are)?

    I hope you were tired when you wrote this post because I have never heard you say something quite so offensive without an excuse.

    Don’t remove the little amount of joy left in the world by making it wrong to celebrate for the sheer joy of celebrating. You’re turning into a Purtian.

  • 3. Rachel  |  Friday, 22nd June 2007 at 10:11 UTC

    We used to have really cool celebrations all night on the stray in York at summer solstice. Some people were there for religious reasons, others just for a fun way to chill at the end of term. I think the problem with Christmas and Easter is that the celebrations no longer respect and reflect the meaning which the faith puts on those celebrations. As long as you keep that in mind, I see no reason for not celebrating other festivals in solidarity with your friends of other beliefs/faiths.

    If all my friends were Muslim, I’d rather they all came to my Christmas party to help me celebrate, than try to mark the occasion on my own.

  • 4. Greg  |  Friday, 22nd June 2007 at 14:40 UTC

    I can sort of see what Graham’s getting at here. Eid is a celebration of the end of Ramadan, but as a Christian, I can’t celebrate that and don’t want to celebrate that. So if I have an Eid party, I’m moving the focus of Eid away from the thing which is what it was created to celebrate in the first place. I’m celebrating nothing, and moving the meaning of the religious festival closer to ‘nothing’. I can celebrate nothing any day of the year, so why should I pick a date when someone else already has a celebration, and impose myself on them and their festival?

    There are other aspects to this, of course (the number of festivals we can impose ourselves upon and the possibility of a semi-secular celebration being evangelistic for its cause, to name but two) so I may post about those once I’ve had a think.

  • 5. Jonathan  |  Friday, 22nd June 2007 at 18:13 UTC

    I had planned to stay up for the solstice this year but completely forgot on the day itself.

    I honestly don’t see what the problem is. Largely cos I don’t see how one person’s celebration impacts on another. I find the ultra-rich having million-pound parties to celebrate the birth of a man who sided with the poor offensive – but it doesn’t take away from my own celebrations in any way.

    One of the great things about celebrations is that they can bring people together – including those outside of that particular tradition. When I’ve been travelling abroad, if there’s a festival on I will take part. Sure, I’m not Thai/Polish/Indian/Whatever, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying the experience.

    Similarly, when I was in halls and it was Chinese New Year, the hall would organise a group event as the Chinese were the largest international group there. We would come together, those who were Chinese would celebrate as they were used to while those who weren’t could still enjoy themselves. Same goes.

    To be honest, I also find the following:
    Exactly, they’re celebrating nothing, there is no purpose; maybe I’ll begin to wonder if they have nothing to celebrate.

    What, celebrating outside of the “traditional” remit of a particular festival makes someone empty as a human being? Bullshit.

  • 6. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 25th June 2007 at 2:45 UTC

    I now realise that I didn’t word this rant particularly well, and that style-wise it was doomed to failure like most of my incoherent ranting, either verbal or written.

    Yes, I have my puritanical side, I’m surprised at how little people realise this. I was in the SWP for over a year, for heavens sake! I’ve also been non-specifically pissed off for over a week now, some of it post-G8 emotions, which may explain some of this.

    Greg does very well to pick out what I’m getting at. Its not really so much the people ‘helping others to celebrate’, its the people going ‘oh look, its Christmas, lets get drunk’ or ‘oh look, its Solstice, lets stay up and smoke weed’. Helping other celebrate is one thing, but it can all get rather distracting.

    Jonny, I think you’ve completely missed my point with your final remarks, though I accept this as being as much my fault as yours. I know some of my views on festivals are completely incomprehensible, and that my lived-out definition of ‘celebrate’ is a little different to most other people, many Christians included.

    This is the first time I’ve tried to write out my feelings about this, after several years of getting worked up about it (maybe the last 5-6 Christmases, more recently with other festivals) so I’m sorry if it didn’t entirely work. Next time there’s a festival where I feel the same way, I shall try and write about it again, and hopefully get it right.

  • 7. Jonathan  |  Monday, 25th June 2007 at 17:21 UTC

    Alright then, I’m curious; just what does this:

    what are they celebrating? Nothing in particular? Exactly, they’re celebrating nothing, there is no purpose; maybe I’ll begin to wonder if they have nothing to celebrate.

    actually mean?

  • 8. Duck  |  Thursday, 28th June 2007 at 16:50 UTC

    I’ve got a very good reason to mark Summer Solstice, without it being a ‘religious’ thing, so please don’t make assumptions.

    Further – well, if I didn’t steal everyone else’s festivals, i’d get a bit bored 🙂
    Seriously though – I’ve learnt most about other religious practices by turning up to Hindu & Muslim festivals (held by my family). I think people probably ‘need’ a certain amount of occasions to get together, see all their relatives have a party, and live outside the usual rules for a bit, possibly with culturally-prescribed neurotoxins if that’s your thing – hey, enough of the year is taken up with living regimented everyday life, time to celebrate being human & its various joys & sorrows is surely worth any excuse.

    Celebrating outside my religious tradition – well, when I’ve been to Diwali and tied a red thread to someone’s wrist as a blessing, I’ve prayed for them, and sometimes in words more conventionally Christian than what I’d use in a Church where it goes without saying. Last Christmas, my Muslim aunt cooked a full roast (with veggie option). For Grace, a cousin recited an Arabic blessing [apparently something like the Magnificat], I read a bit from the Bible, other cousin gave a Hindu chant [mentioning Jesus as an aspect of Brahman, the Absolute], and Smelly Brother provided a Marxist Rant. Many of my Hindu cousins went to my Grandfather’s cremation (the only other Quaker in the family), and my Mum was very honoured that the Hindus held a Fire Ceremony (adaptation of their traditional death rituals) for Granddad – and read his favourite Psalm at the end. When I’ve been to Eid parties, and acted daft & had a good time with cousins & friends, it’s not because I’ve ‘done’ Ramadan, but because I’m happy for those of my cousins who have, and I want to celebrate with them.
    If God’s everywhere, God can be in chucking food colouring at your cousins for Holi, or in throwing flowers from Grandad’s garden on a fire in his memory, or taking off your shoes and covering your head to pray as another way recognising that this place and these people and this time are another part of all that is Holy.

  • 9. Sophia  |  Thursday, 5th July 2007 at 14:56 UTC

    There are so many things wrong with this post that I’m not sure where to start.

    First up, most of the Christian festivals were stolen from other cultures to begin with so you are being incredibly hypocritical.

    Secondly, why do people have to have some bullshit religious reason to celebrate? What is wrong with just celebrating life and family and friends?

    I’ll argue this one with you in person.

  • 10. Greg  |  Thursday, 5th July 2007 at 21:46 UTC

    I believe the point was that if people don’t need a reason to celebrate and so can celebrate any time, why not do the polite thing and avoid pretending to celebrate something they’re not?

    As for christmas, I suppose the only defence is that since it’s been around since the fourth century, it’s here to stay, and neither Graham, I or anyone else alive actually set it as that date. Though we could of course move to the Eastern Orthodox date of January 7th!

  • 11. Sophia  |  Friday, 6th July 2007 at 11:23 UTC

    I don’t really care when you guys celebrate the supposed birth of Jesus etc but I do object if you object to other people celebrating at the same time.

    Christianity overrode almost all the secular and pagan traditions of celebration around that time of year, and Christianity’s historical dominance in this part of the world means that our culture is set up to facilitate celebrating at christmas time.

    I don’t pretend to celebrate something I’m not. Midwinter greenery, decorations, lights, singing, sex, food, friends, family, presents. These are all things that the inevitable ‘true mean of christmas’ dirge tells us aren’t anything to do with the religious holiday.


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