In a recent weekly homestead report I voiced a desire to start celebrating marker points of the seasons as alternate holidays. As I put it in the post, basically I want to do traditional pagan holidays – celebrations of the solstice, equinox and the like – but secularized.
I’m culturally Christian, but not religious. Without a deep religious connection to Christ, modern American Christian celebrations like Christmas can feel more like a big fat consumerist circle jerk than a connection to the divine. This may be why Thanksgiving and New Year’s have always been my favorite holidays. One is a traditional harvest festival celebrated with food and family; the other marks a new beginning with drink and chosen family.
The idea of inventing your own family traditions is kinda funny, if you think about it. A tradition is something you inherit, typically. But even the most traditional of traditions came from somewhere. Take the Christmas Tree. Someone was the first person to say, “Hold my beer, Hans, I’m gonna go light that spruce tree on fire.”
So, I figure, why not try celebrating things that do resonate with me – like the seasonal rhythm of planting and harvesting? Call it a little hat tip to seasonality, a little pause to acknowledge the passage of time, or a moment of appreciation for the earth and the life it sustains.
My holiday musings seemed to resonate with folks – several commenters on that original post mentioned that they do celebrate the seasonal marker days (the Wheel of the Year Holidays, I’ve learned they are called), or that they also have similar ideas for creating new family traditions.
Anyone who has a similar goal, it’s a good time to start planning for the Autumn Equinox – the first day of fall. In 2017 the Autumn Equinox is Friday, September 22nd.
There are a few names for a celebration of the first day of Fall depending on what tradition you’re following. Mabon, Ingathering and various Druidic names are used. One of my readers told me that the Harvest Home Festival was the traditional English celebration at this time. Harvest Home sounds so charming – like the name of an apple-scented candle you’d buy at Cracker Barrel. I love it!
Traditional Harvest Home festivities include “singing, shouting, and decorating the village with boughs. The…last sheaf of grain, which represents the spirit of the field, is made into a harvest doll and drenched with water as a rain charm. This sheaf is saved until spring planting.” (Source)
I’m thinking my Harvest Home celebration will probably include music, food, and something involving apple cider. Maybe I’ll rent a press for juicing fresh cider!
If you want to throw your own Harvest Home Autumn Equinox party, feel free to use this invitation. Just download and use your favorite PDF or photo editor to add your own party details to the invite.
In the sample invitation, the font used for the details is Futura Condensed Medium in all-caps and the dark purple color is hex color #3b0e48. But modify as you like.
If you want to hold your party on the astronomically correct day (and not the nearest convenient Saturday) make sure you choose Friday September 22nd as your party date.
Theoretically, I suppose you could print this invite out in color and mail it to all your friends as a flier, but it’s made with the assumption that you’ll just email or even text the invite as an attached PDF.
Is anyone else planning on celebrating the Autumn Equinox?0
I missed your last post, but this is EXACTLY my background, and exactly what I have been working toward in my own family. For so long everything has felt so disconnected, and while I have no intention of invoking Persephone or the like, I have found many benefits to taking time out of my regular schedule to notice and celebrate the high points on the Wheel. I typically take some time out privately to have a sort of gratitude “ritual”, and then I plan a feast with my family in the evening. I have found that the more I incorporate this into my year, the more whole and connected I feel.
Thank you for sharing about this. I would love to hear more about it as the wheel turns. 🙂
Thank you, I’m glad folks are interested and that your own experiments in this direction are working out for you.
My neighbors have a cider pressing party every fall. Last year they pressed 3 orchard boxes of apples on their homemade press. it’s great fun if you’re looking for an activity.
That sounds like just what I want to do!
Ien van Houten says
YES! I have wanted to do this for decades! I even wrote a letter to the local paper proposing it in pre internet times. We have a desperate need for meaningful ritual, for the secular sacred. Celebrating Earth’s rhythms is a way to remind us all of what we have in common, instead of what divides us. I always mark the Solstices, Equinoxes and halfway points, even if it is only in my mind. I would like this to happen worldwide. Deities can be inserted by their respective believers if desired. In the meantime, the most meaningful celebration of my life is Thanksgiving, the second weekend in October here in blessed Canada. It is close enough to the Equinox to feel like the true end of summer. I always try to organise a meal with friends that features homegrown or at least local food.
Nice to see you Ien. Hope the fires are still far away. I like your phrase “secular sacred” – just lovely. Hopefully these celebrations will be all about homegrown or local-ish food.
We celebrate seasonally and have for years.
The Winter solstice is my new year. A candle in the window from dusk to dawn.
Cidering is our Autumn Equinox, mine is scheduled for the week of Sept. 16, which is a little off date wise but it’s when the tree will be ready.
I like your flexibility with dates based on when the harvest has to happen. That gives me a lot of encouragement to make it work as it will.
Nancy Sutton says
Sounds great! (too bad I’m an introvert? 🙂 But your reference to spirituality, ‘pagan’ and Druid names brought to mind the Archdruid John Michael Greer’s brand new website … ‘Ecosophia’ Toward an Ecological Spirituality’.. I like his stuff. (He was born & raised in Seattle area.)
(I wonder about Maggi’s neighbor’s homemade press… any links? And a candle lit from dawn to dusk seems like a an appropriate greeting for the returning Sun..)
It’s nice to see JMG writing again. Sometimes his articles get a little lengthy, even for me, but in the ecological awareness circles I follow he’s a big player. Did you see the panel with John Michael Greer, James Howard Kunstler, Chris Martenson, Frank Morris, and Dmitry Orlov? It’s worth a watch if you’re into that kind of thing.
Joanne Moller says
If you people had Canadian Thanksgiving, ie in early October! this would be more automatically seasonal.
Jokes on you!
We don’t have Boxing Day, either!
The Crunchy Chicken says
Lovely! Now, if only I knew someone who was renting a cider press or something…
I have a cider press you can borrow Erica! I’m in Snoqualmie Valley, so not too far away! Our apple trees are too young still to produce enough for a pressing, but we always buy cases through our bulk foods group. I will put it on the calendar for Sept 22nd now that you mention it’s the equinox. I love the idea of acknowledging the seasons that way. I’ve considered celebrating traditional medieval holidays, but my kids and husband teased me out of it.
How did it go? 😀 😀 😀
Did you make cider? 😀