Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's in a date?

Worked late last night, and now things are too slow.

A friend wrote in July about the Tanabata Festival in Japan. One celebrates by tying wishes to Bamboo and then burning them or floating them on the water (the Japanese are all about burning and floating on the water--preferably together) after the festival or the next day. Now the difficulty lies in the fact that this is supposed to be celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month or July 7th, right? But, NO! The Japanese Lunar calendar is closer to the Gregorian calendar and therefore a month off, so August 7th, but if fact, being Lunar is slightly different each year, so this year is closer to July 31st. So different towns in Japan celebrate it on different days. I found out about this last week and meant to remember not to forget to do it on the 7th, but instead remembered yesterday. So the question is, can I still celebrate this holiday since I would only be celebrating it with my husband and the day is clearly not the issue?
What is in a date after all? It is an arbitrary system by which we organize life, as is language. By that definition I should be able to celebrate anything anytime (and a very merry un-birthday to you!). Certainly the Christian Holidays are quite random--the dates of Christmas and Easter (and even the name Easter) were appropriated from pagan religions in an attempt to cover over and eradicate the earlier holidays. The difference being that ritual requires a repeating and community. It is the coming together at the same time that makes the occasion--the knowledge that elsewhere others are doing the same (as obviously my wishes are no more or less likely to come true for being made on July 7th, August 7th or any day of my choosing--if wishes were horses...; no more or less likely than wishing on a star and then discovering it was a plane or satellite invalidates the wish). This is why C. S. Lewis believed in the act of church going while not endorsing any particular church. The focus of ritual helps reinforce the belief (and in Lewis's case, the CofE certainly is full of ritual). In the same sense attending a concert of even an indifferent band can be quite remarkable because of the essence of the crowd.

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