This morning I listened to a beautiful speech by sociologist Tom Shakespeare on BBC Radio 4; A point of View speaking about summer solstice, the lack of symbolism in Britain and our need for more festivals.
He says that festivals should not just be reserved for those huddling in the rainy fields listening to music and that celebrating the solstice doesn’t mean having to line up for a Native American ritual or to be behind a parade of druids.
We do not have to be religious to still require regular, ritualised encounters with concepts such as community, gratitude and friendship. We can create times where we gather, eat, drink together, sing, play music and dance. We need communal moments in life, where everybody is focused on the same thing; our normal individual routines are set aside, to create moments to connect and come out of ourselves. Memorable times that are important in life.
Other cultures gather to watch the full moon or to picnic by the cherry blossoms whereas in England we have blank bank holidays and excuses to overdose on cheap chocolate. Britain has real seasons and the annual cycle of the Earth around the sun has great significance to our lives.
Festivals give rhythm to our years, without them 365 busy days in our year can become a whirl with no moments reserved to pause and reflect. If we do not mark such moments as the Equinox (when day and night are equal) then the years may become a featureless smudge in time.
Tom concludes with a quote from sociologist Robert MacIver ‘the healthy being craves an occassional wildness, a jolt from normality …. his own little festival of Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life.’
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