In addition, our holidays have become a minefield of commercial exploitation, which -surprise, surprise - only feeds into our alienation. Christmas has all but been destroyed by commercialism and sectarianism. It needs a major makeover and will probably get one if the economy continues to tank. Given the current political climate, it would probably need to be some kind of generic Winter Solstice festival, but that's where most of the familiar Christmas trappings- the cool ones, at least- originally come from anyhow.
When you think about how we go through the workaday week, you realize it's these kind of holidays that give structure to our day to day life. It may be counterintuitive, but I don't see why Christmas and Easter (read: Ishtar) can't be celebrated by everybody, since they are in fact impossibly ancient holidays that were Christianized solely for political reasons.
I'm very encouraged by the Halloween revival and all of the Burning Man offshoots out there. The Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St. Paddy's, Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Summer Solstice, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve- hell, bring it on. Get together and dress up and celebrate and drink and screw and eat and laugh and puke. It may end up being the closest thing to a social glue we have.
Meanwhile, I'll just sit in my space capsule here and try to parse the meaning of it all. And one meaning I've parsed is that not only are these festivals increasingly independent of belief systems, they may actually be better off without them. The meaning is the act of the celebration itself. But again, at their core these festivals are based in those rhythms of nature that religious narratives were later imposed on.
The corporatization of our culture breeds alienation and isolation, and the result of that is paranoia. The cure for that debilitating disease is community, gathering, interaction, networking. And this new model of holiday gives these processes a compelling structure. The gay community has traditionally used festival and celebration as a way to deal with alienation and isolation, as have marginalized immigrant communities.
Now that we are all made to feel alien and expendable, it's only natural for this process to spread into the mainstream.
In their purest form, holidays give us an opportunity to reconnect with symbol and with ritual, which can't help but feed the Dreaming Mind. But only if these rituals are taken back from the pimps and ripoff artists who've been controlling them for the past hundred years.
UPDATE: This is interesting. Cheers to Astronut.
UPDATE: Please tell me this is a joke:
Uh, excuse me, your holiness but don't you have it the wrong way round?
Earlier this week the Catholic Church in Spain also condemned the growing popularity of Halloween, saying it threatened to overshadow the Christian festival of All Saints' Day.
The Bishop of Siguenza-Guadalajara, Jose Sanchez, said there was a risk that Halloween could "replace Christian customs like devotion to saints and praying for the dead."