Kemetic Round Table: Secular Holidays.

The Kemetic Round Table (KRT) is a blogging project aimed at providing practical, useful information for modern Kemetic religious practitioners. For all the entries relating to this particular topic, take a peek!

Holidays in Western culture have long since changed from the days of religious observance. If you study Medieval history, then you know how very pious many of the large holidays were. In Catholic countries, observances of saints’ days were held in high regard along with the other major religious holidays we still celebrate today. Christmas was a twelve-night affair that ended in January; Saint Valentine’s Day was not filled with sappy cards and boxes of chocolate; and Easter was a four day affair, spanning from Friday through to Monday. We don’t celebrate the holidays the way that our ancestors would have and many of our ancestors would probably scratch their heads of they could see what we do for those types of celebrations. In addition to this, we have national holidays that have never had religious observances thrown in the mix: Martin Luther King, Jr Day; Veteran’s Day; Independence Day; and Thanksgiving. Some holidays that would appear to be national are celebrated by individual states, too, such as Patriot’s Day being celebrated in Massachusetts and not in the state in which I work, Connecticut. This adds a whole ‘nother kettle of fish to the whole holiday question.

For most of these items, I tend to associate them as secular holidays and little else. They’ve become less religious inspired, or never were religiously inspired, and more about having an added day off from work or school. In other cases, their focus is more about things rather than the silent reflection that probably should accompany these holidays. For ill or good, most holidays in America are seen in this light. Hell, even atheists and agnostics celebrate Valentine’s Day and Christmas. We can’t very well just decide to cut them on out of a celebration that takes our nation by storm. If atheists can celebrate these holidays, then I don’t really see why a Kemetic can’t participate, either.

The thing is that, in some instances, it can be a little uncomfortable, as an outsider, to enter into some of these observances. In the case of Christmas, which did begin as a religious holiday, there are bits and pieces of the holiday are still entrenched in religious observances. People go to church and observe certain religious traditions that were ingrained in them as children. Some aspects are cultural in nature more specifically relating to food: panettone in Italy and in American Italians while the French Americans, French descendants, and the French will celebrate with a tourtiére. However, if the family traditions are ingrained and you’re entering into those traditions, as they always used to say, “When in Rome do as the Romans.”

In my particular instance, since my family is French Catholic, we celebrate quietly on Christmas Eve with family. No midnight masses – most of my family is too old to stay up that late, but they do attend mass. In the case of the Husband’s family, we spend a rowdy Christmas Day eating heavily and drinking copious amounts with Italian inspired dessert dishes. (His legitimate Italian family members would make meatballs and sausages for Christmas Eve dinner instead of the “seven fish dinner” people tend to associate with Christmas Eve and American Italians.)

But, even with the adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” how does a Kemetic really negotiate through the holiday?

Honestly, it never really bothers me. It doesn’t matter what the holiday is. My religious observances aren’t in tune with the religious or secular observances going around the country. They hardly, if ever, match up. I may pay attention to a holiday that’s coming up because I don’t mind celebrating the holiday. I celebrate Thanksgiving in the conventional manner as everyone else; I eat turkey and then bitch about how full I am afterward. I celebrate Christmas by handing out presents and having fun with family members. I celebrate New Year’s Eve by attempting to stay up late and watch the ball drop (I don’t think I have the last few years though). I celebrate Valentine’s Day by buying sappy cards and giving them to the Husband. I celebrate the rest of the secular, national holidays in the country by having a day off and bumming around the house. And that’s effectively it. That’s how I negotiate them all.

However, it is also possible to incorporate your current religious practices with the secular holidays that are coming around, as well. Last year, I did some celebrating with my OTHERS™ on Thanksgiving as well. I ended up having a nice celebration with family during the day and then did a little bit later on with the gods and land spirit around my home. While I didn’t celebrate in this fashion this year, I did feel like I had successfully breached a barrier between the secular and the religious when performing the celebration in question. Emboldened by the Thanksgiving success last year, I ended up incorporating the netjeru into my Christmas celebrations as well: each of them got presents from me. While, again, I haven’t done this and don’t intend to this year, it still makes me feel like it is at least feasible to incorporate your religious identity with the secular holidays that Americans have in abundance.

Now, aside from the major holidays that happen around the end of the year, there are other holidays that happen throughout the year. As I indicated, there is Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, and so forth and so on. There is usually about one or two major holidays throughout the year, per month. Those traditions can easily be incorporated into a religious tradition if the desire is there. In same vein, you can celebrate the holiday however one so desires with their family members and then, later on, incorporate the netjeru into the celebration. Or you can incorporate them all together. However one decides to approach it is, frankly, their decision. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for anyone else.

We are all individuals here and how we approach major holidays is going to be as individual as we are.


2 thoughts on “Kemetic Round Table: Secular Holidays.

  1. I suddenly realized that it’s really nice in my childhood: to be grown-up in “secular” country. Late Soviet Union was totally secular, and all state-supported holidays we had, had exclusive secular meaning behind them.
    So, it’s just another feeling at all: we were never influenced by religious background of holidays.
    We didn’t celebrate Christmas (except if the family was religious, but it was kept on family level, not state): for us, kids of Soviet Union, the decorated three, and the gifts, and “Grandfather Frost” instead of Santa-Claus (the old folk-tale guy bringing presents for kids) were totally secular and all about the New Year.
    It was somehow a revelation to discover that the tree was “Christmas” tradition. =)
    We had 8th march: “Women’s day”, day to bring flowers and gifts to moms and grand-moms and all female teachers and workers all around us. Very warm celebration. Family day.
    23th february, the “Day of Soviet army” was always treated as “Men’s day” : “Day of the Protector of Homeland”, as we call it nowadays. Day to bring gifts and flowers for boys and dads.
    We had 1th may (international solidarity of workers), beautiful day of demonstrations and parades with baloons and flags; and fireworks at the evening.
    And 9th May: Day Of Victory, day of military pride.
    And 7th November: Day of the Revolution, again, lots of parades and fireworks. And family members gathering together for celebration.
    So, no religious background at all: purely secular celebrations. And IMHO this background taught me to treat all the holidays equally, and “join the fun” without any concern about religion.
    Now, when Russia has some government support for Orthodox Church, I don’t really care (because I’m not orthodox christian), but I enjoy some extra days off-work.
    However, modern Russia really lacks real state-supported lavish secular holidays which we used to have in Soviet times. I really miss them (Shouldn’t I visit the North Korea, lol).
    Only “Day of Victory” and probably New Year keep the same old feeling of country-wide holiday.

    Well, that was just rambling about Russia in the past and present :)

  2. Pingback: Negotiating Holidays | Kemetic Round Table

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