I have a big box set aside with the makings in it for a generic birthday party. It isn’t much of a much, just some candles, balloons, wrapping paper and bows as well as some gifts. The gifts are also generic, a few craft kits, some books, a deck of cards, hair stuff. I stuck to things that would do for a broad range of ages. I will keep my eyes peeled this summer for puzzles and games to add to the box. These are things I often find new at tag sales and can get for under a dollar although I have noticed a change in tag sales this year.  There are many more sales but the prices are higher. It is a sign that people are trying to make money as opposed to cleaning out clutter.

Rituals define our lives, especially if we have kids. One of the tragedies of life is that we have let Madison Avenue steal our rituals and turn them into reasons to spend and spend big. The days of making a Halloween costume out of your rag bag and coming home with a bag that included popcorn, apples and home made cookies are over. I know parents who begin their kids costumes in August and throw out any treat not commercially wrapped. We won’t even get into what has happened to Christmas.

A changing world may well have us redefining our rituals and that can be nothing but good for families. We can keep the elements that work (family gatherings, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, coloring eggs, potato latkes, lots of wonderful things don’t require a lot of money) and dump the things that don’t (expensive gifts, elaborate decorating, outdoing your sister). We can also decide what we want to celebrate. There are many events that are not tied to existing structures, religious or otherwise, that are open to the creation of our own rituals.

I am a big fan of moon phases. A quick on-line search of moon names will call up a list of Native American moon names that open up a world of possibilities. July’s moon is the Strawberry moon in  many cultures tied to earth cycles. We always plan a day of picking at our local organic, you-pick place followed by an afternoon processing the fruit into jams, dried fruit, fruit leather and frozen strawberry sauce. I don’t can strawberries as they turn a very disturbing shade of grey. That evening we feast on strawberry shortcake for dinner. Nothing else, just strawberry shortcake. It is one of my favorite days of summer. For us, it is ritual.

Every month has a moon and all can lead to ritual. Cross-county skiing on the night of the January moon, volunteering at the homelsess shelter during the Hungry Moon in March. During the full moon in February we always read Owl Moon to the kids. None of these things cost money and not one can be hijacked by the advertising kingdom.

As important as family rituals are community rituals. Homecoming picnics, parades, talent shows, church pageants, all are at risk and all should be supported. We never miss our agricultural fair, our tiny July 4th parade and the ice cream social we have at out school to mark the end of the school year. If you have a local ball team, go to a few games. Never miss a school concert or the Christmas pageant at church. If you don’t have a community ritual, make one up. Pick a day for a block party, a pot luck supper, a seed and plant exchange or a marshmallow roast. Have some fun. Create something special.

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