How we danced then, you can’t imagine
my grandmother said. We danced
till we were dizzy, we danced
till the room spun like a dreidl,
we danced ourselves drunk and giddy,
we danced till we fell panting.
We were poor, my grandmother said,
a few potatoes, some half rotten
beans, greens from the hedgerow.
But then on Shabbat we ate a chicken.
The candles shone on the golden skin.
We drank sweet wine and flew up to the ceiling.
From On Shabbat she dances in the candle flames, by Marge Piercy
I’m not one for big parties, but I’m fond of small gatherings and I love a good ritual. And if you adore getting dressed up and going to celebrate with 200 people at a grand party, then good for you.
As a society, we’re pretty focused on big celebrations (as I write this, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is £20,000 (US$32,300), which makes my blood run cold), but I think there’s much to be gained by the habit of celebrating all those quieter moments that mark the continual turning of the year.
If you follow a particular religion you might attend services regularly, but do you mark the changing seasons? Do you have a thoughtful, personal ritual to start and end each day? And how might you celebrate personal changes in your life as you grow older, including new family roles such as becoming a grandparent, and of course the big ‘change’ of menopause. (Yes, I do suggest celebrating menopause. If you think this is new age woo-woo, we’ll talk some more later!)
So let’s invent our own rituals and explore ways to celebrate the big and small markers of the turning year, and of our lives.