Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Old Rituals

When I was a kid, trick or treating wasn't a deal. In Bible-belt country (and most of the U.S. was Bible-belt country back then) Halloween wasn't even on the radar. Small local communities might have the annual gimme candy festivities, but most didn't. I think I went trick or treating twice in my life.

By the time my children were old enough to be interested, it was a big deal, both in the communities where we lived and in their schools. Then came the poison candy scares and the allergy scares and the no-kid-is-safe-anywhere scares and trick or treating is slowly dying out in favor of private parties. We haven't had any trick or treaters here in the last three years.

Most of the television programs I catch are produced and set overseas so I get a flavor of how various holidays are celebrated outside the U.S. Their customs are vastly different than here. With a bit of ingenuity and research I can figure out most of them, but the variety completely amazes me.

The other thing that I find interesting is the shift in observing various holidays. For instance, when I was a kid, Easter was probably the highest, most important holiday, even more so than Christmas. There were numerous rituals and observances attached to that week. Now it's difficult to find anyone who even notices.

Christmas has been reduced to an orgy of buying and greed. Thanksgiving is a feast of gluttony. And our patriotic holidays--Memorial Day and Independence Day are picnics and fireworks. Flag Day...well, who flies a flag? Who owns one? As for parades, those are reserved for Santa and football.

In the past--two or three centuries ago--there were no doubt very different celebrations and observances. I suppose human nature dictates changes and the passing of old rituals and memories. But for every ritual lost, we also give up a bit of our human history. There were reasons the old rituals and celebrations existed. With their loss, we lose a bit of ourselves.

I wonder. What will the face of our celebrations look like in fifty years? Will we be gathered in stadiums, cheering for the gladiators and lions? Or will we be hiding in caves to serve our gods in secret?

Maybe, there will be no rituals at all...


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