I don’t remember where I first heard about Sasha Sagan’s book For Small Creatures Such as We, Finding Wonder and Meaning in Our Unlikely World, but I do remember it sitting in my online cart for months before I finally caved and bought a gently used second hand copy, somehow I ended up with an uncorrected proof for limited distribution, but that has not hampered my enjoyment.
In some ways, coming out of Christian Science, which is decidedly devoid of wonder and meaning, and working towards being a secular humanist (godless unchurched heathen), didn’t feel like much of a shift. I stopped going to church, but I wasn’t going all that often anyway. I had never gotten into the habit of attending Wednesday night services, and I certainly didn’t mark the books or read the lesson on a daily basis. The only notable service on the CS calendar is Thanksgiving, and aside from some truly spectacular testimonies, taking almost two hours of prep time out of your Thanksgiving day for an otherwise dull service really messes up the timing of the turkey.
Christian Science has no birth rituals, or concept of confession or atonement. There are no birthdays or anniversaries. No wedding celebrations, certainly no sex, and death is seen as a failing of the deceased. There are no feasts or fasts. There is the Lesson — you should read this daily, and there are The Books, and there is the Sunday Service and the Wednesday night Testimony Meeting and really, you should be there, what more do you need?
Leaving Christian Science opens the door to a world of possibilities for celebration and ritual. What do we want to celebrate, commemorate, or do and why?
Do we choose to celebrate Christmas as we did before, with the occasional Prin Holiday Sing, cookie-swap circuit for those church ladies who felt so inspired (we didn’t), and vague attempts at sharing the Nativity story and tying it in with CS? Or do we embrace secular-Christmas and celebrate family, togetherness, and add a bit of Solstice celebration in as well, with the return of light and warmth?
How do we celebrate Easter? What do we celebrate? Why? As children we would usually get new, often matching, outfits for church, having long outgrown the previous year’s floral abominations. My children still get new outfits, not for church, but because the seasonal shift usually needs new clothes. We celebrate with chocolate bunnies, an egg hunt, and brunch. Why? Why not? Because chocolate bunnies make me happy, and egg hunts are fun.
We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and some weeks we celebrate the simple fact it is finally the end of the week and work and school is done.
So why do we celebrate? I’ve struggled a bit with this, the children celebrate seasonal changes at school, and it made sense to acknowledge these events at home as well. Some things we celebrate out of a sense of tradition. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, a few calendar holidays – some with “religious“ origins. Does every celebration have a deeper meaning? No. Sometimes we celebrate because celebrations are fun, and people have celebrated for things for centuries, why stop now?