Feasts of the small gods
My grandfather was a public school teacher in Boston in the 1930s. As part of his job, he was required to read aloud from the Bible each morning in class, a rule he was able to thwart creatively by realizing that very few people have any idea what the Bible actually says.
And so he would solemnly open a big book, clear his throat, and proceed to calmly and authoritatively say whatever he wanted, in a bible-reading tone of voice, inventing passages to suit his mood.
Those who have, it shall be taken away.
And so it was said.
He who tells the story preserves the story for the next generation.
Did anyone learn anything? Hard to say. What they should have learned is that if you give a cranky Jewish anti-nationalist a bible and a nonsensical rule, he will amuse himself, and possibly also sneak in some pointed thoughts on the separation of church and state.
I am sad I don’t have more “bible wisdom” quotations via Grandpa Sam to share with you, but I love this story, a story about storytelling and how it can be a form of subversion, a small quiet rebellion.
The Boston public school system was no match for my grandfather. Rules? Do I have a story for you…
The text is yours
Here is what I take from that story about storytelling:
The text is yours. The text is ours. We get to tell whatever stories we want, reinterpret and redefine ourselves for ourselves, and it is an exercise of our creative freedom to always be rewriting.
Right now I am thinking about the superpower of The Text Is Yours specifically in the context of time and the calendar; rewriting and reclaiming holidays, taking care of ourselves inside the calendar, centering our own needs in time-space to make sure we don’t forget to tend to ourselves.
I am also thinking about how we care for ourselves specifically at those times that require extra care and tending, the times of Known Grief as well as Surprise Grief, which are sometimes the same, and sometimes not. It’s complicated.
And I am thinking about Reinvention & Play: can we perceive these as intrinsic rights? And if we are able to remember that we get do-overs, what do-overs can we give ourselves in service of comfort and liberation?
Feast days and feast days
I love a feast day, the more feast days the merrier, and sometimes a situation arises that demands we invent a new one.
There are Joyous Feast Days for being joyful and remembering joy. Not just for joy — these can be zany, uplifting, inspiring, absurd, we need more of these, let’s keep inventing and reinventing celebrations.
Other Feast days are more like memorials that morphed into a party because they just really needed to become a party. The feast day of we will light a candle and make food, heyyyy now it’s a feast day.
Let’s not forget the Feasts of Liberation, a blending of joyful and sad, the #itscomplicated of Feast Days.
And then there are what I call the seasonal feast days, shehecheyanu days, we made it here and now it is the first warm day of spring, the first ripe strawberries, the first reason to make a pie, the day the saguaro begin to bloom, pumpkin spice lattes if that’s your thing, celebrating those small sweet moments that reconnect us to where we are in the year.
Into the pot
I am tossing examples into the pot, in the hopes of inspiring us to invent our own holidays, the more unlikely the better.
Let’s start with some Joyous Feast days and see if they spark ideas for other holidays.
The Joyous Feast Day of Four Seasons Total Fuckup Day
I have several friends who turned Four Seasons Total Landscaping Day into a feast day, with good reason.
November 7 is the glorious holiday of no matter how hard you fuck up, you will not fuck up this hard. You could spend a lifetime trying, and still not attain anything close to this level of fucking-up.
We can take a moment, or all day, to immerse in deep gratitude for this. However wildly embarrassing our screw-ups may be, it’s not as bad as booking a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, thinking it was The Four Seasons hotel, or Rudi Giuliani showing up to the parking lot of a landscaping business to deliver a speech between a sex shop and a crematorium.
No matter how spectacularly we mess up, and we will, it still won’t be the kind of disaster that results in everyone forever associating us with the phrase “between a sex shop and a crematorium”.
And it was a much needed day of comic relief at a time of great terror; a year of pent-up raucous laughter that needed to be let out, we needed to collectively fall apart in a fun way, and this day delivered.
Menu planning is also a form of rejoicing
My friend who planned an entire dinner menu around the anniversary of this holiday (rack of lamb with buttermilk mashed potatoes in a serrano reduction, the best kale salad, cocktails, wine) said:
“There is a reason to be festive today and make something amazing for dinner, take care of yourself and the ones around you, light all the candles and be grateful. We are safe, and there are bigger fuckups in the world than we will ever be!”
Blessings upon this menu, blessings upon the serrano reduction, blessings upon remembering this great and reassuring truth about how we are not screwing up as hard as we think actually.
The Festival of Stuck Boat Week (a week of slow feasting)
The boat was just the most relatable (who among us was not in the stuck place last March), and there was something oddly reassuring about such a complex international disaster being reduced to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ … sorry, nothing works, can’t fix it, can’t do anything, Boat Is Stuck.
What’s the problem? Boat is stuck! What’s the solution? Boat not being stuck. What to do? Nothing!
This is the festival version of my favorite stone to skip: What is the treasure in Nothing To Be Done Here? Let’s celebrate that.
The Waters of Bitterness (bonus Stuck Boat trivia!)
Do you know where the ship was docked during the investigation of What Happened?
The Great Bitter Lake. You can’t make this stuff up.
Imagine how much Grandpa Sam would have loved both the notion and the name. The Great Bitter Lake. I know it would have become one of his favorite fake biblical references.
And so it was said, question authority, that ye shall not be lost in The Great Bitter Lake…
A grand celebration of Stuck and of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
My friend K plans to celebrates Stuck Boat week aka ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Week (March 23-29) by celebrating all forms of Nothing Can Be Done, and what they call the great equalizing superpower of No This Situation Is Not Special It Is Also Stuck:
“I’m going to speak in proverbs and do absolutely nothing helpful. Imagine me nodding sagely the whole week and saying to anyone who asks me anything, ‘The boat is stuck.’ And then just leaving it at that. I plan to show up to all my problems with nothing but a lego tool, and just BASK IN THE FUTILITY.
“All of your questions about the stuck boat are answered by my THE BOAT IS STUCK t-shirt! Then for weeks afterwards I will continue to say, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don’t know what to tell you, that boat was in the Suez Canal too and everything is delayed. I might even cancel all my appointments to celebrate more thoroughly. Your hope is lost with the dildos, stuck on a boat in the Suez Canal! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Nothing to be done here, it’s just stuck, deal with it!”
Abandon all hope, we are busy being stuck, it’s a festival of stuck!
Abandon All Hope Of Dildos, Ye Who Enter Here!
Abandon All Hope of Email Responses! Do Not Hope You Are Finding Me Well!
Also All Hope Of Going Anywhere, we aren’t doing that at the moment, sorry…
I love these superpowers!
The liberation in the not-doing
A whole week for Joyfully Lowering Expectations. Can we find the liberation in that.
Let Us Bask In The Futility!!! The Courage of Helplessness. Nothing To Be Done But Chill. It is out of our hands. Oh well!!!
Guess it’s time to make tea and read fanfic, we’re not going anywhere. Are we there yet? NOPE. See also the superpower of might as well use what I have and make my own fun because we’re just waiting this one out.
Happy _______, to all those who celebrate!
Mixed feelings about Twitter these days (my misery loves company but my anxiety can’t take any more anxiety), however it is a great place to find people joyfully making up holidays and celebrating memories of shared moments.
Happy large boulder the size of a small boulder day (Jan 27) to all those who celebrate!
A joyous anniversary of white supremacist Richard Spencer getting punched in the face day to everyone who celebrates.
A delicious and festive National Carrot Cake Day to all who celebrate (Feb 3).
Rewriting Feast Days
The year holds many more commonly known holidays and I rewrite them to suit my purposes.
I celebrate Groundhog Day as my True North New Year’s Day (aka Do-Overs Forever Day), and that’s both when and how I begin my year, with the reminder that I can start over as often as I want.
January doesn’t count anyway, it’s a dress rehearsal at most, or just hibernation time, a thousand points for getting through it.
The start of this year was garbage, I got covid (I am an actual recluse who was vaccinated, boosted, masks everywhere, and, most importantly, doesn’t spend time with people, and still got it), and it took me out, chewed up my brain and also made my back stop working. So the first month of my year was spent in bed and on the floor, in an enormous amount of pain, having massive panic episodes.
What a relief that January doesn’t even count!
My new year begins in February.
I have no reverence for the traditional calendar holidays, I want to make things up like Grandpa Sam did, trusting that whatever I invent is probably better.
Other holidays I celebrate
The 14th of February is Victorious Day, sometimes known as Vengeance Day, and it is for living lusciously and being a walking fuck-you to the world and its boring expectations.
The second Sunday in May is when I celebrate Badass Self-Parenting Day, and make a point of staying offline.
(There’s more to be said about our toxic culture and its obsession with exclusionary holidays, but we can save that for another day).
I have a feast of BLTmas, sometimes also known as X Marks The Spot, on Christmas, the loneliest day of the year, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows about how I celebrate Zero Fucksgiving, the other loneliest day of the year.
Works in progress
These holidays and feast days are all works in progress.
I am always trying to figure out how to make them more bearable, more workable, more fun (???), and each year I learn something about what works and what doesn’t, what got me through it, and what did not help at all, and I take notes for the next time.
Superpower of Do-overs forever. We try a thing, and then we try again, with upgrades.
Seasonal Feast Days
These joyous feast days might not be in your calendar and maybe they don’t need to be, but they might spark some ideas for festivities of your own.
I love sunflower season and make a point of scheduling nothing the week the sunflowers go wild so that I won’t accidentally be too busy to go for a long walk in breathtaking fields of sunflowers.
And when the saguaro bloom. I visit them as often as I can in spring if I can to watch for signs of their glorious flower crowns.
What are we looking forward to?
Everyone I know has something like this they look forward to whether they think of it as a celebration or not.
Soup on the first cold day. Layers. Goddess bless Flannel Shirt Season. Picnic on the first warm day of spring.
I think the loss of communal seasonal festive days is partly why things like pumpkin spice lattes or shark week have gained so much traction online.
We crave connecting inside of time, being in conscious relationship with the seasons and with each other. All the more so these days when everything that is happening feels so accelerated, so much input, so much going on, versus the disorienting time-is-frozen everything-is-repeating sensations from being isolated.
People vary, and I don’t personally experience the appeal of shark week or pumpkin spice everything, but I do extremely get that craving to have [temporal treats], something special or enticing to direct our focus as time goes by, so we don’t get lost in time.
This is why I am so committed to feast days, this is why I love the practice of Feasts of Small Gods.
BYOF. Bring your own festival.
Rarely in life do we get uncomplicated joy
I have special feelings about Passover because it is a Feast of Liberations that acknowledges how complicated celebration really is.
We are having a whole feast to celebrate a good thing, but the good thing is really the ending of the bad thing, so you can’t pause to remember the good thing without also remembering the bad thing, and not only does the good thing remind you of the bad thing, but even the good part of the good thing (being liberated) contains more bad things (harm was done).
Does that make sense?
It is easier to plan for a joyful feast day of joyfulness, but rarely in life do we get uncomplicated joy.
I appreciate that Judaism is so upfront about this truth that no one talks about.
Like, yeah, we know, it’s complicated, but we lived to tell the tale, we are telling the tale right now, that’s the point, so we will laugh, we will cry, there will be a lot of food, come feast with us.
We are rejoicing, and yeah, it’s a very #itscomplicated kind of rejoicing.
Telling and retelling the Passover telling
We were enslaved and it was awful, we were freed and we are celebrating, a whole lot of death and destruction happened to get us from point A to point B, and we are conflicted about that but also grateful.
We are Miriam dancing with the tambourine and also we are grieving, this is when we dip our little finger into the wine to remove ten drops of joy.
And it’s even more complicated than that because also when we think about freedom, we are thinking about the people who are not free today, and we are thinking about the very specific ways that we are complicit in this, we see how we participate in and contribute to injustice and to systems of harm, and we have feelings about *that*.
Here’s to liberation.
And because today is the day of our becoming free, it is the day we tell that memory-story and eat the memory-food, and so we gather to do that, it is light and heavy at the same time:
Here’s to liberation. It’s complicated.
Here’s to telling our memory-stories and eating the memory-foods, here’s to gathering in time-and-space, noticing how we feel, noticing how we have changed and grown since the last time we paused to be in this remembering.
Here’s to being in the remembering and also being the observer of the process of remembering, here’s to remembering we can change outcomes and do better, we are always trying something new.
Liberations in action
Purim Pi Patrick!
Not only is Stuck Boat Week coming up at the end of this month, but this week is full of celebratory days.
Monday March 14 is Pi day for eating pie!
Wednesday night is when Purim starts, and you might know Purim is my favorite Jewish holiday, the holiday of NEW IDENTITIES (costumes), MERRIMENT (drinks & cookies), & VENGEANCE (celebrating the downfall of powerful people who tried to kill us).
Then Thursday is the day of Purim and it’s St Patrick’s Day, a day in which I confuse people by having green eyes, freckles and not being Irish, and a day for listing to Irish music, or however you celebrate, that’s what I do. Tucson’s Jewish-owned gluten-free bakery, Dedicated, put out a Purim-Pi-Patrick menu, and I love the mouth-feel of this phrase. So many Ps.
Feast of Liberation days
I wrote last week about celebrating my Divorciversary with a Feast of Liberations.
I also hold a Feast of Liberations on the birthday of my worst ex to remember that I am free from having my life tied to someone who makes unpredictable (though predictably terrible) life choices, without ever taking me into consideration. I am freed from being someone who thinks I’m only attractive when I’m a size 2, and that paying any amount of attention to me is an exhausting chore.
And I also have a feast to mark the day I left, even though that was painful too, and I deeply regret not setting their belongings on fire first.
But do-overs forever is also a game I can play in my mind, and go full Beyoncé Lemonade-gif mode AS OFTEN AS I LIKE. Setting a fire is another form of lighting a candle, right?
The surprise drop-kick of memory
These days can’t be described as joyful, even though I am glad for my hard-earned independence, it’s more like I have to make a point of remembering to light candles and feed myself, or these days can surprise drop-kick me into the most overwhelming situation of monsters and doom-stories.
Even when I think I’m ready for these days, I’m not.
But ultimately, yes, these days are for remembering what it took to have this freedom, and fury is part of that too.
And also I’m celebrating. I made it across. Nothing would compel me to be in that situation again.
Passover is all about telling the story. You read from the Haggadah which literally means Telling, and the first thing you are told in the telling is that the telling itself is what matters:
The text says: kol hamarbeh lesaper harei zeh meshubach, whoever makes a big deal out of telling the story of the exodus from Egypt, this is praiseworthy, the telling is to be praised!
Which itself sounds like something Grandpa Sam would have “read” to his students from his imaginary Bible:
You shall live to tell the tale and be praised for remembering.
It is praiseworthy to tell the retelling and tell it again, it is praiseworthy to make a big deal out of the story, to add and embellish, to bring it to life, and, as my dad says, make a big tzimmes out of it, this is a yiddish/yinglish expression, possibly related to how much work it takes to make a tzimmes.
The telling is an honoring but the telling is also a way of making something new. Or it can be. Storytelling as healing, renewal, perspective, zooming in to zoom out and vice versa.
The telling is a way to relive something but differently this time, not a rehashing, a re-understanding, all blessings of do-overs forever….
Blessings upon the do-overs! Blessings upon the snacks.
Reinvention & dress-up & play
These are the qualities I treasure in a festival or feast day.
I want to wear a giant hat. I want to rewrite my stories and release what needs releasing, strengthen what needs strengthening.
It is praiseworthy to play, it is brave to play with our stories. That’s what I believe.
Here’s to reinvention and reclaiming, do-overs forever, add more joy, and all powers of The Text Is Ours.
What feast days are we celebrating? Play with me in the comments (I love company!)
What do you want in your special days? What days do you want to mark as feasts of small gods, or whatever you’d like to call this ritual of reinvention…
Let’s brainstorm, name qualities and throw them into the pot!
You are welcome to share anything sparked for you while reading, any feast days you already celebrate, any ideas you have for new festivals, or rituals you’d like to add to existing festivals, or any experiments you’d like to run this year with your personal calendar or the collective calendar…
You can also leave pebbles or stones of presence -o- or any wishes you’d like to wish. It’s all welcome.
I tried a thing and it didn’t work (technical stuff), so we are trying it again this way. You can temporarily get my 2014 ebook, Saying Everything Twice, on this page at a special flash sale price!
It’s 113 pages, and if you’ve ever wanted to read my blog all day but with the stuff I don’t post here because it’s too personal, I got you, that’s basically what this is. It’s from when I was not speaking, so there is also a lot of what I learned from that immersion in quiet.