Civilization / Culture / Economy / Philosophy / Quality


File:Deko-Weihnachtsmann aufblasbar.JPG

Celebrations and festivities are games. When we take part in games, we might just play them according to the rules. The fun might be greatest when we forget, for a moment, that we are just playing a game.

However, at some point we should become aware of the game-like nature of the celebrations we take part in. If we do, we can decide whether we want to take part, how we want to celebrate, what we expect and how we want to do it. We can actively shape the celebration and redesign the game and its rules as we want them to be. If we do not do this, others will do so for us. Others will then use the festivity for their own interest. In a society that is, to a large extent, controlled by commerce, celebrations will then be commercialized. From events of togetherness, community and mutual support, our celebrations will then turn into empty forms and into cold appendices of a consumerist economy. Others might attempt to sneak in an ideological message of some kind.

So we should spend a little bit of time on reflection here. I am simply suggesting that we think about it, talk about it among each other and take control of our festivities again. An unexamined life is not worth living, according to Socrates. Maybe we can vary this a little bit: an unexamined celebration is not worth celebrating.

(The picture is from

12 thoughts on “Celebrations

  1. It’s been at least two decades since I stopped taking part in this commercial lie. I’m finally in a place (remote from the collective) that I can almost ignore this day and time altogether.

  2. Of course, you must be speaking of Christmas celebrations. Some celebrations such as the “carnivalesque” provide an important social outlet of self expression as cultural manifestations of a people.

    In Puerto Rico, even “Three Kings Day” evolves into a carnivalesque celebrations which have nothing to do with religion. Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s doctoral thesis, later published as Rabelais and His World, argued that “Carnival” is a “social institution”, and developed a theory about the role of humor and popular ritual in Carnival to produce a festive perception of the world constituting a second life of the people beyond and outside of the seriousness of “officialdom”. He also developed a theory of the carnival grotesque in which the lower bodily strata (eating, sex, defecation) serve as a medium through which to challenge the powerful. He argued that the feast is a primary human cultural form, rejecting as superficial its reduction to the need for rest from work. Folklorist Roger Abrahams moved beyond generalization about the function of Carnival to show that rather than producing one kind of effect, different social sectors used Carnival to focus attention on conflicts and incongruities by embodying them in “senseless” acts.-

    “Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of the norms of daily life.”

    “While it forms an integral part of the Christian calendar, particularly in Catholic regions, many carnival traditions resemble those that date back to pre-Christian times. The Italian Carnival is sometimes thought to be derived from the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia. The Saturnalia, in turn, may be based on the Greek Dionysia and Oriental festivals.”-Wiki

    About Bakhtin and “Rabelais and His World”-

    “Bakhtin opens this work with a quotation from Alexander Herzen”: “It would be extremely interesting to write the history of laughter”. “One of the primary expressions of the ancient world’s conceptions of laughter is the novella that survives in the form of apocryphal letters of Hippocrates about Democritus (Hippocratic Corpus, Epistles 10-21).[10] The laughter of Democritus had a philosophical character, being directed at the life of man and at all the vain fears and hopes related to the gods and to life after death. Democritus here made of his laughter a complete conception of the world, a certain spiritual premise of the man who has attained maturity and has awakened. Hippocrates finally perfectly agreed with him.”-Wiki

    • Thanks for sharing theese thoughts. Christmas is just the example that prompted me to write this. However, I was also thinking about New Year and Carnival and generally the same thoughts apply to other traditions as well.

      I am living in Cologne but I am originally from Hamburg. Cologne has a tradition of celebrating Carnival that does not exist in Hamburg. It is actually quite strange for me. I am looking at it from the outside, as somebody who does not take part in it, with a view akin to that of a cultural anthropologist, in a way. And just like in Christmas, I see the same trend toward increasing commercialization and a total lack of reflection in many people.

      I am personally not involved in the religious aspects of any of these celebrations (which are, to a large extent, now absent from them anyway). I am an atheist myself. When I am saying that celebrations are games, that does, in my view, include religious celebrations as well.

      I see a positive potential in celebrating, if we understand what we want to do. If however, they become a matter of commerce only, they become destructive.

  3. The commerce in folkloric traditions, be them “carnivalesque” or not in form, are part of the “folklore” in particular societies, I suppose you’re talking about the ‘westernized’ version of Christmas.. In P.R. there are the Taino Indian, African, Spanish and English roots. Since the Spanish language predominated here, the local craftsmanship consists of, for example, building musical instruments from African and Spanish influence. We have absolutely no commerce selling Santa Clauses nor Reindeers, but Spanish and African crafts, yes, simply because of the historical influence on the island. I don’t take part in any of those traditions anymore, anyway.

    • With commerce I do not mean craftspeople producing things like musical instruments. That is OK, in my view. In the carnival here in Cologne, you can buy all kinds of silly costumes that are probably made in china. It is no longer a traditional carnival, it is some plastic thing. The traditional things still exist but mostly it is big business.
      Then there are some “holidays” that where only introduced recently by the industry. 20 years ago, Halloween was unknown in Germany, now it is a big thing and people buy silly vampire costumes and the like. This was introduced by the industry, there is no native tradition of it. Likewise, Valentine day was introduced into Germany in the last 20 years by the chocolate and flower industries. It was unknown here when I was a child. Christmas is a big commerce thing and Easter looks like it was invented by the sugar industry.

      • We had all of that coming to P.R. which is a very small island. No wonder we never became a state of the U.S., following those customs are still a big effort on our behalf, when we have our own customs, agriculture and language.

  4. You know, this is great. I love the idea of taking traditions and making them your own, creating your own rules. For Christmas, I love decorating the tree, so this part I keep. I could really do without the parties, but I’m afraid there’s no way out for me. I also love baking Challah bread around this time, which is really funny to me, but no one blinks an eyelash when I start handing out loaves around the neighborhood. (I suspect they don’t know what it represents, or maybe they’re only thinking about putting it in their mouths!)

      • There’s a picture on my post of what it looks like, at least my version:

        It’s a beautiful bread that’s supposed to be eaten on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. My husband is Jewish, but not practicing. Ironically, he’s some kind of Christian-Hindu fusion, a make-your-own religion. And so of course, I make this on Christmas and confuse the hell out of everybody. Especially since I’m a half-Korean agnostic. (Although, no one in the neighborhood knows about the agnostic part.) 🙂

        But whatever. It makes excellent French toast.

        • Sounds appetizing. I have to try it.
          My sister celebrated “Christmas” with Jewish and Muslim friends. There where Eritreans, Arabians (Syrian Palestinians), Israelis and Germans on the table. I will join them for New Year and add some German/Cameroonian element to it. I really like this. You eat together and you notice that all that fighting is completely ridiculous.

  5. I have a sneaking suspicion that certain “rituals” and “traditions” are what set us on the path of self-destruction and ecocide that has brought us to the dire straits in which we now find ourselves.

    I refer, of course, to the seeds of organised “religion“, the gatherings of late Paleolithic and early Neolithic people engaging in “ritualistic activities“. These activities ultimately led to permanent settlements, population growth, theism, agriculture, hierarchic institutions and the onset of ponerogenesis, Pathocracy and the entire cycle of evil that has plagued humanity since the Neolithic Revolution.

    Just my opinion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s