Tom Shakespeare has written a brilliant piece for the BBC on why celebrating the seasonal festivals makes sense in the 21st century:
The Church’s appropriation of many pagan festivals has left an important gap – the summer solstice. Tom Shakespeare casts an envious eye at the seasonal rituals celebrated in other countries and urges more symbolism in British holidays and traditions.
If in this year of 2013, an interplanetary anthropologist came to England for fieldwork, what would they discover? On a variable Sunday each spring, we give our children more chocolate than is good for them, eat roast lamb and visit garden centres.
On the last day of October, we dress the kids up in old sheets, black bin liners and plastic fangs, and send them down the street to extort sweets from our neighbours. A few days later, we gather around a bonfire, set off rockets and celebrate the execution of a Catholic conspirator. The following month, we get together with our birth families to exchange gifts, to eat too much and to argue.
And that’s about it.
The word “festival” is now reserved for occasions when people who are young, or would like to be, huddle together in a field to listen to music in the rain and shop for ethnic clothing and candles. And get inebriated.
Some 1,500 years ago, our Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ancestors had a much better idea. They celebrated regularly to mark the passage of the seasons that governed the natural world around them and the cycle of the sun, which gave them light and warmth.