I have been pondering in recent weeks, the implications of the special days we celebrate in our society. In Australia, one of the biggest national holidays is ANZAC day (for those further afield, Australia & New Zealand Army Corps; 25 April marks the day a very large contingent of this Corps fell victim to a rather significant error in judgement on the part of the British army, under whom our nations fought, on a beach in Turkey). I often feel conflicted on ANZAC day, and this year, I was trying to understand why.
Clarity hasn't arrived just yet, but my ponderings on this subject have been joined this week by ponderings about Mother's Day. And as I sit with the questions that arise for both these days, I begin to expand my view to other special days my community, my country, celebrates: two of the bigger days in Australia are Melbourne Cup Day (when the nation stops for a horse race), and Grand Final Day (Australian Rules Football) (Rugby Grand Finals don't have the same impact nation-wide).
What does it say about us when we stop what we're doing for war veterans (predominantly male), horses (or the betting that goes hand in hand with horse-racing, not to mention the way we take advantage of animals for our own amusement and financial risk-taking), and football (we don't stop for any women's sports with the same whole-of-nation focus)?
What does it say about us that we have turned a day designed to call women to protect their children and their values, to work with strength, courage and tireless energy for peace, health and justice, into another opportunity for commercialism (with $2,000 rings promoted as a mother's day gift ... )?
For that matter, turning Christmas and Easter into seasons of gift giving (or getting): I hope other faiths, as their special days gain more acknowledgement in the wider community, don't suffer the over-commercialisation of their high days that the Christian tradition's high days have suffered.
It's not that I don't think honouring veterans is important: it's a particular calling, and sacrifice, to give one's life in pursuit of peace, and a particular gift to the human community for which we rightly give thanks.
It's not that I don't think honouring mums (and dads, when September rolls around) is important: the particular gift we have all received, of life, means we all have a mother (and a father) for whom to be grateful at least for that; and this, as my friend Pam observed in a Facebook conversation yesterday, is an opportunity to recognise our common humanity.
But as my friend Cheryl's poignant poem observes, there are many in our community who don't get a day to honour their gift to our community. What about us?
I have encountered this question at gatherings for engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and children's birthdays: what about those of us who don't get married or have children? What are the celebrations for us?
What are the rituals we can create for those in our lives who are important to us? Do we make more of their birthdays? Do the birthdays of our children (I'm thinking 1st and 2nd, when it's the adults who really celebrate) become days we not only celebrate the lives of our sons and daughters, but the support and encouragement of their aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends? For children are raised in a village, my friend Heather said in another Facebook moment today.
I have chosen paths that include rituals to celebrate milestones and my place in community: graduations for university, ordination and induction as a Christian minister, there will be a launch for my poetry collection when published later this year ... but what about other paths in life?
And, as a Christian minister, in a tradition that does include many different rituals, I wonder, can my tradition offer something to the community in response to these questions? I suspect we can, and am glad to think my wondering might take me in a useful direction. (At Belair last year, we had a season of commissioning, in which we gave thanks for, and sent into God's Way of Love, each of us, from the youngest to the oldest, with our various roles to play in community)