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12. What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?
Funny you should ask that. The single biggest festival I participate in all year has got to be PantheaCon and it’s less than 2 weeks away. I would probably have put this post off out of desperation if it had been a more difficult question to answer!
So let’s start where we are, shall we?
(Fair warning: I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I track time in a fair bit of detail. Also, you DID ask for what observances I make.)
First, the calendar of once-a-year markers:
Brighidsmas – If by celebrate you mean “narrowly dodge the low-flying Brighid” who often demands my attention for one evening at the beginning of the month. I hear folks call it Imbolc and Candlemas, but to be honest I could never quite get the hang of it. Of course, I could never quite get the hang of February at the best of times.
PantheaCon – 2000+ of my nearest and dearest Pagan friends and total strangers gather for a Pagan (and Pagan-compatible) interfaith convention in San Jose for 4 days. Many many rituals, presentations, concerts, workshops, parties, and debates ensue.
Lesser Ghede Season Opens – That’s not a technical term, nor is it any kind of tradition. I’m just personally not supposed to deal with my Papa between late November and early February, largely for my own psychological health. Winter is difficult enough without trying to keep up with a loud dead guy, I guess. It wasn’t His idea – Damballa and Ayida Wedo ordered it many years ago when They saw how sick I was getting.
Cherry Bloom – I live in dwindling orchard lands, and the most immediate lands have cherries and apricots. The cherries blooming are really obvious, and quite beautiful, and mark impending spring.
Daylight Saving SPRING FORWARD – Suddenly I get a whole extra hour of SUNLIGHT in my day! Woohoo! Goodbye SAD! I can ramp down my winter depression meds now. If I stay on them year round, I get extra panic attacks in the summer.
OSTARA IS THE SHINIEST EVAR OMG HAVE YOU SEEN MY EGG COLLECTION LOOK AT ALL THE FLOWERS WHERE’S MY CAMERA?! CAN I HAVE MORE BUNNIES PLEASE?
Ostara with Hrafnar – In early 2003, while I was Lorrie Wood’s student, we finally managed to figure out that Rabbit was my first and strongest spirit ally. Diana and Lorrie then invited me to priestess for Ostara that year. I fell completely in love with Her and have gleefully returned to perform my “duties” as an Ostara priestess every year since then.
Ostara with Fellowship of the Spiral Path – I think I missed this last year, but for many years another of my Ostara priestessing duties has been to perform a Liturgy of the Lady for the Maiden Ostara at Berkeley’s Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists along with Diana and Lorrie.
Easter – Ostara is still the shiniest ever, which is why I’m willing to celebrate with my family, so long as by “Easter” we mostly mean hunting for eggs on my Dad’s 14+ acre property up in the hills.
Walpurgisnacht – Mostly a celebration of Heide and Gullveig with a side of Holda and/or Freyja depending on who is the most demanding that year. Doesn’t always involve a formal observance.
Bealtaine – Provided I can manage it, I either stay up all night, or wake up super super early to watch the Morris dancers dance up the sun. I haven’t managed it the last few years, which makes me sad.
Vanir Party – Hrafnar hosts a trance devotional for the Vanir at Greyhaven each year. I haven’t missed it since the first one I attended, also in 2003 (a lot happened in 2003), when I first invited Freyja to ride me.
Mother’s Day – In my Mom’s family Mother’s day is at least as important as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone descended from my maternal Grandmother gathers to honor the women who have borne children in the family. Mostly it’s an excuse to get together in the warmer season, eat eggs, drink champagne, and play bocce ball with the little kids.
Festival Season Opens
BayCon – Not religious in the formal sense, of course, but it is very much a gathering of MY Folk. BayCon is a local Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention that I have attended for at least a few hours every year since I was 11 years old. I worked it for so many years that I was honored with the Friend of Baycon award, allowing me a badge, which has helped in recent years since they had to move to a location that is overwhelming for my sensory processing. This year looks like a particularly lovely lineup, so I hope to attend for longer than usual.
Last Spring Rains – Well, usually. About 1 in 3 Memorial Days is rainy around here, and yet somehow everyone is shocked by it every time.
Anniversary with Chien – This year will be our 15th together, and we’re looking into taking a weekend away for just ourselves.
Midsommer – There are many ways to celebrate, but the one guaranteed to happen is dancing the Midsommer Stangen at our solstice Vanic Conspiracy meeting. We also gather for a public charity at that time.
Necklacing Anniversary with Ayida Wedo – A small private observance honoring my having taken a Necklace to Ayida Wedo in the Umbanda House I used to serve.
4th of July – I don’t really have a sense of that being a big holiday, so much as everyone around me does, one way or another, so it always gets marked.
This makes it look like the summer is less busy. This is a bald-faced lie. It’s just the things in the summer vary from year to year.
Bay Area Tarot Symposium – I’ve helped out on and off over the years, but since it moved back to San Jose from San Francisco I’ve been much more consistently able to volunteer my time for BATS. It’s been particularly helpful as I slowly slog my way through my Tarot project.
Family Beach House – Growing up my Dad and StepMom almost always spent a week or two at a beach house in the late summer, and took as many of the 5 of us kids as schedules allowed. This last summer was the first year since childhood that I actually got to attend again. It doesn’t overtly mark anything in particular, really, but it’s a seasonal family tradition nonetheless. I suppose it’s a subtle festival honoring our relationship with the Pacific Ocean.
Burning Man – I don’t attend, but enough people I know do that I have to keep track of when it happens.
Labor Day Weekend – It’s not that I celebrate this day in particular, but I always mark it as the transition from Summer to Autumn from a school-schedule perspective, at least.
SAD Watch – This is around when I start ramping up my meds against winter depression.
Anniversary with Lon – Our next will mark 4 years. Woo!
Renaissance Faire – Sometimes I don’t get to it until October, actually, but I try very, very hard not to miss entirely, because I’ve only ever missed two years in my entire life since before I was born – literally. The Faire isn’t what it was back in Black Point Forest, nor is it quite the same as when I worked as a henna artist for several seasons when it first came to Casa de Fruta, but missing it still hurts, so I make a point of going. This year I made myself very sick with heat exhaustion, because we went on the hottest day of the season. Oops!
ConVolution – A newer Sci-Fi/Fantasy con, and maybe one that doesn’t quite count as a proper calendar item yet. But it reminds me very much of the cons I grew up with, and includes several hundred of my dear friends and acquaintances from the Con scene, so I’ve been going for the last several years and plan to continue.
Festival Season Closes – Although Ren Faire runs into October, and Dickens’ Fair is in November/December, most of the travelling festivals and campouts are during the warm season.
First Rain – The first rain in September is the beginning of the darker half of the year far more than the Equinox is. I’m told the first full moon after the first rain in September was once the liturgical New Year for one of the local native peoples who based their year on the cycle of the CA Live Oak. Miwok maybe? I’m not sure. But my Mom and I have observed it ever since.
GHEDE IS THE SHINIEST EVAR OMG HAVE YOU SEEN MY SKULL COLLECTION LOOK AT ALL THE GRAVEYARDS WHERE’S MY CAMERA?! CAN I HAVE MORE CALAVERAS PLEASE?
“Indian” Summer – The mid-autumn in California is always a second heat wave after the rains begin. Sometimes it’s hotter than August. I still don’t know if “Indian Summer” is a racist usage, but I also still don’t know another name for it. [ETA: A bit of poking ’round the interwebs seems to indicate that while most folks in the US assume it refers to Native Americans/ First Nations, it actually has roots in England going back to the Indian Ocean trade, possibly referring to a last chance to get a ship launched towards the East before winter weather sets in. The term is used throughout the Commonwealth. Of course, they also say it doesn’t count unless there’s a solid frost before it, it doesn’t count unless it’s November, and other rules that don’t account for local climate variations, so *Shrug*.]
Winternights – This can be celebrated any time between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice as far as I can tell, but both Hrafnar and the Vanic Conspiracy celebrate it at our October meetings. In the VC we celebrate by filling our glasses and taking turns telling stories about our beloved dead. Everyone gets a turn. No limit on the species of the beloved dead. Preference given to stories of those lost in the last year. Preference given to personal stories of dead we knew while they were alive.
Halloween – Aside from the dressing up and candy aspects, the last several years this has entailed hanging out with Lon Sarver’s household and watching classic horror B movie or the like. It’s been nice to be in a neighborhood with a wide range of enthusiastic kids coming to the door. I just wish I had more chances to carve pumpkins.
Samhain – I usually end up celebrating the three related holidays repeatedly one way or another, between the various events my friends hold. Samhain in particular, when I mark it, involves setting aside a plate for any Wanderers, lighting a candle, and pouring wine or mead. It’s more to honor the Fae, whereas Winternights honors the Ancestors, and Halloween is more of a cultural/folk holiday, for me.
Dia De Los Muertos – Living in California amongst Pagans and a very strong local Mexican community, Dia De Los Muertos is another of the ancestor reverent holidays around this turning of the wheel. No, they’re not interchangeable, they each get touched on in their own way, but this is definitely one of them.
Ghede Devotional – Lately my Ghede devotional has just been me, Papa, a hat and some rum, with whoever is willing to hang out. In past years it has been far more elaborate, since it’s one of the major annual events of the Umbanda House.
Daylight Saving FALL BACK – OH NOES SAD ATTACK! No, seriously, to whatever degree I wasn’t already feeling it, the time change suddenly shifting sunset up an hour hits me like a ton of bricks every year now. This is also when I experience going into the mound with Freyr. I’m clear that for others He goes in much sooner, correlating with harvest season more than light levels, but He has made it quite clear that this must be the marker for me, and that cyclical time and linear time interact with a certain amount of wiggle room.
My Birthday – Yep, I’m a Scorpio. If I don’t mark my birthday, the winter sucks a LOT more. It’s my annual celebration of ME, and I generally hold a 10-12 hour open hospitality party at my house, inviting as many layers of my friends as I can handle that year, from the closest outward.
Headwash Anniversary with Papa Ghede – A small private observance honoring my having taken an initiation to my Papa Ghede in the Umbanda House.
Greater Ghede Season Closes – No more talking to Papa Ghede until after PantheaCon.
Holiday Season Opens – From a commercial perspective, I guess it’s more like open season on shopping.
Thanksgiving – This is a family gathering in the usual US tradition. I consider it a celebration of my family, my ancestors, and an expression of gratitude to the landspirits, as well as a day of respect and mourning for the people of the land, who have lost so much at the hands of too many of my ancestors.
LosCon – Another Sci-Fi/Fantasy Con, this one down in Los Angeles. LosCon feels the most like BayCon did when I was growing up. It’s also the con where I found my Brisingamen all those years ago!
Oh dear gods, the holiday season…. Well actually, it’s pretty well all the same thing over and over, isn’t it?
Hrafnar Yule/Sankta Lucia’s Day – When I can manage it, which is less often than not. But Sankta Lucia is very important to me, so I really try to honor Her whether I can go to Hrafnar or not. Either way, Her song WILL be stuck in my head on and off for most of December.
Solstice Vigil – I tend to spend Solstice with a group of dear friends, usually in the form of staying up all night keeping watch over a flame, and then singing up the sun as it rises the next day. These days I do it with even more good friends as part of Lon’s household celebration.
Christmas Eve – Every year with my Mom and my Sister. These days we include my Brother-in-Law, Nephew, Niece, and Grandma.
Christmas Day – Every year with Mom’s side of the family.
Boxing Day – Every year with Dad’s side of the family.
Vanic Conspiracy Yule – The list up until this point should make it clear why we hold this on whichever Monday or Friday is available between Boxing Day and New Years. So much more relaxing not trying to compete with all the other Yule, Solstice, Christmas, and Hanukkah celebrations! We burn the Yule log, feast, and gather for local charity.
New Year – Whatever party I have the energy for happens. I try not to spend it alone, at least.
Holiday Season Closes – Take one deep breath and then dive into PantheaCon prep!
Fall over – January with SAD sucks pretty hard core.
Hrafnar Allthing/Odin Trance Devotional – I don’t go every year, but when I do I usually end up either in charge of the warding team, or carrying Freyja (which, with the way Freyja behaves on me, is almost the same thing).
There are also, of course, monthly Vanic Conspiracy meetings which often line up with these various holidays. There are actually monthly Hrafnar meetings too, I just don’t get to attend them very often anymore.
There are various less regular campouts and other Heathen events, like Trothmoot, which I only attend when it’s in my reach.
There’s also plenty of seasonal markers that I notice when they come and go, but can’t easily mark on a calendar. I pay attention to the phases of the moon, and which plants are in bloom, when the trees grow their leaves and when they drop them, etc.
Lon’s answer: My Personal Festival Calendar