How to Keep the Holy Days Sacred

holy days

The winter holiday season is over, and the holiday horror stories are rolling out. If you have some of your own, read on. See how to keep the holy days sacred so that this will be the last year of disasters.

My holy days are always fabulous. I look forward to them every year and have a great time. As long as you remember “sovereignty, connection, and Oneness” and these four guidelines, yours can be fantastic every time too.

Don’t Make It About Gifts

The quickest way to spoil a good time is to make it about gifts.

What are you going to get me? Is my present better than hers? Is my present better than last year? Did you put enough thought into it?

Ack! It’s enough to drive someone crazy.

Lots of people understand that consumerism is a mood killer. You could establish different rules that work for you like: no gifts. Only handmade gifts. Or maybe you only give gifts when you feel like it throughout the year. This way it’s always heartfelt, there is no obligation, and no pressure.

Gifts are a great way to show appreciation. However, when they become the center of attention or obligatory, they can be a way to keep score. And that’s not really what holy days are all about, are they?

Don’t Make It About Food

Depending upon when your holiday season starts, you could be looking at up to 6 weeks of feasting. That’s a lot of food to pack in. And if you are like most people, it’s carb heavy, sugar heavy, holiday foods that you don’t normally eat throughout the year. This can make you sluggish and moody, not to mention less healthy.

Food is love. Trust me. I know. So by all means indulge. Just maybe keep the feast days to the actual days and not the whole season.

If you’re like my family, you make enough food to feed the neighborhood for a week. If you dropped it down a notch or two, you can still have a great meal and enjoy it fully.

Don’t Make It About Money

Once we start asking for big ticket items or putting a price tag on the value of gifts, things can get really stressful. With that comes judgment that someone didn’t spend enough or family get togethers are too expensive to attend. Or maybe one family has all the financial burden of hosting.

Zoom out. Consider the big picture. We can’t know what someone’s financial resources are. So the best way to deal with that is to offer to help, commit only to what you can afford, and don’t judge.

Holy days are about connection. It costs nothing to do that. There are a million ways to do it in a way that works for all sides. All it takes is a little creativity.

Don’t Make It About Obligation

Holy days are a time when everyone is celebrating. There are lots of options for gatherings, and yet life still must go on. We still have to work. We still have to pay attention to our friends, family, and partners. Self care does not go out the window. It can be tough juggling it all.

This is when sovereignty works best. Trust that everyone is doing the best that they can. It’s not a reflection of their love or care if that means they aren’t spending time with you. The best gatherings are those where everyone present wants to be there, too. So enjoy it for what it is.

It’s easy to get lost in the madness that is the holy days. It can be a really stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. With healthier boundaries, less judgment, and clear communication, dysfunctional holidays can be a thing of the past. If you start planning now, by next Thanksgiving, it will  flow effortlessly.

How to Have a Green Friday

green friday

Four a.m. wake ups. Shopper stampedes. Setting up camping tents outside the store. Fights.

Black Friday horror stories mean many people want to opt out. Opt out of the buying, stress, and pressure. If this is you, read on. I’ll give you some tips on how to reinvent the kick off to the winter holiday season and create a Green Friday instead.

What is Green Friday?

I’m not sure where or when the idea started, but it’s already morphed into a lot of different expressions. The general idea is to make the holidays more meaningful and ecologically friendly. Here are some ideas that embrace these concepts.

Get Outside

Put the green in green Friday by skipping the shopping and the sales and get outside in Nature. Take the partner and kids and go for a hike, pitch a tent, have  bonfire. Reconnect with what’s important and make memories, not purchases.

Host a Craft Party

Want to get a jump on holiday gifts? Get your peeps together and have a craft party. Life’s about relationships. This idea allows you to nurture your relationships while you make one-of-a-kind, meaningful gifts. This feeds your social side, knocks out your gifts, and avoids indulging in consumerism.

Clean Up

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the last harvest. Since Mother Earth has shared her abundance with us, we can show reciprocity by doing some clean up. Is there a park, riverbank, or beach that is strewn with litter? What about cleaning up some graffiti? Maybe there is an area that is being overrun with nonnative, invasive species that needs a fall clean up. Or perhaps it’s your own yard! Wherever nature needs a sprucing up, this could be your Green Friday project.

Not an organizer? Check out hashtag #optoutside or meetup to join local events.

Shop Online

If you’re saying, “But, but, but… there are great sales on Black Friday!,”  I hear you. If you have to shop, why not shop online? This saves fossil fuels and avoids the mayhem found in the stores. Other ideas to reduce the environmental impact of shopping is to repurpose items, buy vintage gifts, and buy local.

Volunteer at the Animal Shelter

Nature isn’t just the land. It’s also the creatures that dwell upon the land. Your local animal shelter can always use some help with cleaning cages, walking dogs, and socializing cats and other small creatures. This is a fabulous way to give back to pet who are living in less than ideal circumstances.

Educate

Share your green Friday plans with others. Animism is a spiritual path that is guided by our values. Together we can change the culture to create a love of land, clean air, clean water, and mutual respect. We can value people over things. This is not to suggest that we proselytize. Just speak from love about why we’re choosing something different. It may change someone’s heart. Perhaps the kick off to the winter holiday season will have a totally different meaning for our children.

When Do We Observe the Holy Days?

holy days

We received a question about when do we observe the holy days. There is a list on our website here, but as you can see, there are a range of dates offered in most cases. It can get a little confusing, so I will break down the reasons below. You can use this to decide what works for you.

The first thing you need to know is that the solstices will always occur on the longest and shortest days of sunlight. The equinoxes will always occur when the length of the day and night are of equal length. These dates change slightly from year to year because of the earth’s wobble. The cross quarter festivals will fall halfway in between the solstices and equinoxes.

Static Calendar

Using static dates that don’t change from year to year is easiest to remember. Most people do this. If this is the method you prefer, the holy day dates for the cross quarter festivals are: November 1, February 1, May 1, and August 1. You can also begin your observations on the evening of the previous day. This is how it was traditionally done and is still done in Judaism, Druidry, and other traditions.

New Moon

Some people celebrate on the 6th day after the new moon closest to each of the dates above. These dates are closer to the true halfway point between the solstices and equinoxes. This will put Ancestor Day on Nov 7. The Promise of Spring will fall on or around February 3rd or 4th. May Day will be May 5. The Feast of Transformation will be on the 7th or 8th of August if you are in the northern hemisphere.

So When Do I Celebrate?

It’s really up to you. If you want to get together with people when it’s convenient or work around your schedule, you can observe the holy days on the weekend closest to the day. If you are doing a ritual and want to make the most of the energy or really feel it, you’ll probably want to do it on the day of the event. After all, there is only one sunrise on the longest or shortest day.

It’s a bit like deciding whether to celebrate your birthday on the actual day or wait until it’s convenient. For something like your birthday, it might not matter all that much to delay it. For something like New Years Eve, it only happens once. You can also have more than one celebration.

If you are going to move it to another day, but you want to take advantage of the energy, my suggestion is to do it before the day. For example, if the new moon falls on a Monday, but you will be working then, I’d do my ritual on Saturday or Sunday. Once the energy has peaked and is on the downward slide, you lose a lot of potency. Then again, some say it’s the same a day or two in either direction. Feel free to play with it and see for yourself.

Connecting to the Ancestors on May Day

photographer: Faris Munandar

May Day (May 1) is upon us. That means it’s a great time for connecting to the ancestors. How do we do that? Let’s take a look.

Clean the Graves

If you know who your dead people are and where they are, May Day is a great day to visit and clean the graves. Modern people are very disconnected from death now. We send our dying to a hospital where they are cared for by strangers. They are prepared for burial by professionals. After death, their graves are dug and cared for by others.

One way to get reacquainted with the circle of life and those who have gone before us is to tend the graves of the dead. This very personal act is a very loving gesture that sends energy across the veil and let’s your dead know they still matter. They still belong to you. While you are there, if it’s permitted you can decorate the grave, sing songs, and tell stories. Treat it like a visit.

Make an Altar

We generally erect altars for temporary use in rituals and holy days. Creating an ancestor altar for May Day requires some thought and can put you in spiritual contact with your dead. Start with a table top or any flat place. Cover it with a pretty cloth. Arrange items that represent your family and can make them feel welcome. This could be photographs, flowers, foods that they used to like, trinkets that belonged to them, or statues or figurines that represent them.

Get creative. Do what feels best for you. If you feel death is another birthday and cause for celebration (as I do), you could make it very festive. Bright, happy colors and items are a way to welcome them back to visit. You might choose to burn incense or use an essential oil diffuser to give them a way to find you. Some like to offer alcohol or other drinks to help celebrate.

Interact With Them

Singing, dancing, praying, and talking with your ancestors is another way to get to know them. Call them in. If you know their names, speak them. (May Day and Ancestor Day are the only days I’d recommend doing this if you aren’t sure if they are well in spirit). Call to the ones whose names you don’t remember. Even if you don’t know them, rest assured that they know you! They want an opportunity to be recognized again and will welcome the contact.

Ask those who are well in spirit to help guide your life. They want to help. Ask them to make themselves known to you. Listen and look for evidence of that contact and trust it when it comes. They are here. They’ve always been here. May Day is one of the times when it’s easiest for both sides to communicate. So take advantage and learn how to hear them.

Feast on Traditional Foods

If you don’t eat the food of your ancestors regularly, this can be a treat for you and them. Find recipes and make food the way they made it. Savor the exotic tastes and smells. Through this experience you can invite the past to visit the present in a most delicious way. Once I had a past life regression where I experienced some medieval food. While preparing for a family medieval theme party, I happened across a very similar recipe and had some interesting de ja vu experiences. Who knows what memories might be awakened through food? But even if this doesn’t happen, food is love. What better way to honor the dead than through their food?

Get a DNA Test

If you are really curious about your ancestors, get a DNA test. This will provide you with a lot of information that may create some mysteries and clear up some old wives tales. It’s important that we don’t lose our people’s stories. If we have, it may be possible to regain them. We carry their strengths and trials within us. If we don’t know what they are, we can’t heal the wounds and can’t profit from their power and talents. Knowing our ancestors helps us to know ourselves.

Talk to Your Elders

Your elders hold valuable information about your family traditions and histories. Talk to them! Most are glad to share memories that are long forgotten. You may think you know it all, but I continue to be surprised by all that I don’t know. I’m sure your family is no different. Elders are a treasure trove of information.

Seek Information In Your Inner World

You can always have an inner reunion. If it feels right, do some sort of purification and grounding practice. Go into meditation. Create a sacred meeting place in your mind’s eye. Call to your ancestors and have a party in your inner world. Ask them questions the same way you would of your living relatives. Share what’s going on with you. Ask what you can do for them or their other descendants.

When you come out of meditation, apply discernment to the information that you get. Don’t act on anything you hear until you have proven it to be true. Sometimes we tell ourselves stories that we want to hear. It takes a while to learn discernment. Test everything until you develop an ability to trust what you receive and know how to tell the difference between delusion and a true message.

May Day is primarily a fertility holy day, but we got a request for information on how to connect with ancestors, so this article focuses on that aspect of May Day. Whatever you are doing to honor this day, we hope it is fabulous. Let us know in the comments below.