We tend to think that if we don’t believe in a religion then the festivals and practices aren’t for us.
As the Jewish festival of Purim is upon us I read with excitement about the festivities that surround it. I then get to thinking that most non religious people are perhaps missing out of festivities and all that comes with them.
We don’t believe in Santa Clause yet we celebrate x-mas, we don;t believe in the Easter Bunny yet we celebrate Easter, many don’t see themselves as Christian yet they still keep these festivals. Here in the West we really only have 2 festivals, 3 if you’re American (add Thanks Giving) add these to the very questionable Valentines Day, Mothers Day and Fathers Day and you could total 5 or 6 if you’re American.
But what of Purim, Eid, Diwali, Rosh Hoshanah, Passover etc.? Do we have to be deeply religious to celebrate such religious festivities? By general Atheist consensus any festival relating to a Deity of any kind would be sacrilege but are they just cutting off their noses to spite their un-believing faces? Surely a festival could be whatever you want it to mean to you personally? For example Purim is about a group of people that could have been the victims of mass genocide but managed to escape while the “sneaky bad guy” get’s it in the end. What a great moral story for a festival to surround, you don’t even need to be a member of that nation seeing as it would probably reach to the heart of your personal beliefs in humanity.
Many of the religious festivals are simply a celebration of good defeating evil which is surely a good concept for any festival whatever your god, after all most religions are about a good God verses an evil opposition. You wouldn’t even need to believe in a god to enjoy such festivities. When we opt out of a festival because it doesn’t sit with our personal beliefs aren’t we just souring ourselves rather than enjoying all of the good that comes with a festival?
You might not be patriotic or a Royalist so you perhaps opted out from the recent Jubilee celebrations for example, but those that did partake felt a sense of togetherness and delight ,perhaps not even because they were happy for the Queen herself but simply because of the enjoyment that came with the celebrating.
Are we giving ourselves so little to look forward too in not celebrating festivals that we are creating an environment to be divided as a peoples and grumpy with it?
In recent years I began celebrating a couple of different religious festivals with friends and family that were either raised in a religious home or converted. I was very honored to be a part of their festivities and had a wonderful time, since then it has got me to thinking and looking at religious festivals in a whole new way. I was also surprised to see the differences in the ways and reason each family celebrated the same festivals. I often found that converted religious people were much more religious about the festival than those raised in the religion itself which only went to show that even within the religions people were able to celebrate the festivals for their own personal reasons in their own personal way, so why not me?
I now take time to find out the purpose and history behind a festival and with that understanding I then determine it’s relevance to my own life or beliefs. This helps me to see the value and worth of adopting a festival for myself or not.
For example I have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with my Irish friends although not being Irish myself (as far as I’m aware), I have been a part of numerous Independence day celebrations of friends of mine although not sharing their nationality. I have blindly followed each and every year in Christmas and Easter festivities, not even questioning where they fit in with my own beliefs, simply because the nation celebrated them too.
I have met Muslims that celebrate Christmas and Christians that celebrate the Jewish festivals and I now wonder why not me?
On average I believe that a Jewish home will partake in approximately 10 Festivals each year compared to our 2 – 5, not including their weekly “festival type” get togethers over Sabbaths and I realised we have even abandoned our traditional Sunday roast dinner ritual because it was no longer relative in our busy lives.
So perhaps it’s a case of adopting other festivals as our own, the way that others have adopted Christmas and Easter as their own? Perhaps we are missing out and could do with a few Jewish festivals in our own lives? Perhaps we need a more open mind in order to enjoy the festivities we are currently missing out on? After all we can’t say “any excuse for a knees up” if we are missing out on some of the best excuses ever.