This Friday, September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and I’ll be attending an awesome party in Charleston, WV. Of course, those of us who are devout members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster realize the importance of such a holiday. Pastafarians believe in the sanctity of Pirates; from the FSM website FAQ:
Q: Why Pirates?
A: We believe that humans evolved from pirates. Consider that humans share around 95% DNA with monkeys, and more than 99.9% DNA with pirates.
How does one celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day? Well, the obvious is by simply learning a few pirate-like words:
Ahoy! – A greeting, meaning “hello” or “hi there”
Grog – the name for any alcoholic drink other than beer, usual rum diluted with water
Smartly – Quickly, hastily
Beauty – A woman, usually preceded by the word “me” ie: “C’mere, me beauty!”
You can also try your hand at a few pirate pick up lines:
Wanna shiver me timbers?
Avast, me proud beauty! Wanna know why my Roger is so Jolly?
(and my personal favorite, for the ladies)
I’ve crushed seventeen men’s skulls between me thighs!
Finally, if thats not enough, you can always take it one step futher (and FSM knows I always do!) with a pirate costume. I’ll be sure to post some pictures from the celebrations this Friday to share with all ye buckaneers!
All of this preparation and excitement also got me thinking about the importance of holidays, rituals and tradition. I believe they are an essential part of community building. Even though I abandoned the Christian faith of my childhood, I have not given up celebrating most Christian holidays with my family, particularly Christmas. Even though Christmas is now a secular holiday recognized by the federal government, in my family Christmas was always about Jesus. My parents never really pushed Santa on us (my mom always said “Santa is just another way for a man to get all the credit for the work a woman does!”) and we always went to church on Christmas Eve because my brothers and I sang in the choir. A lot of the ways I celebrate Christmas have changed.
However, the major things are still the same. My mom, grandma, sister-in-law and I all bake a few types of cookies and then bring them together to make delicious cookie trays for gifting. My dad’s side of the family will host a gathering and all the littlest ones will open their presents, including my neice and newphew. We always wait until Christmas morning to open our presents and we always have delicious homemade cheese raviolis for dinner.
Even though my family will pray over our meal, I don’t have a problem with it. Perhaps other secular folks feel differently, but I love my family and they have been very supportive of me. I’d rather be with them on Christmas and sit through a prayer, than be alone.
There are other rituals such as naming ceremonies, the Unitarian Universalist version of baptism, that seem to fit well with secular values. My cousin Sam was presented at my local UU church and his parents chose representatives to witness the event and promise to be there for support and guidance, just like godparents. Recognizing an important, life-changing event and making a public promise is an important part of community building. I also want to see more examples of secular weddings and even funerals. The Pittsburgh chapter of the CFI highlighted their first secular wedding in the December 2007 Issue of the CFI News letter Ingersoll’s Children.
I think ultimately when it comes to holidays, traditions and rituals, secular folks have to decide for themselves what is important to them. And for me, ultimately the focus becomes less about what day it is and more about who is present in the celebration. Less about what building you go to and more about making sure the door is open to those you care about. Less about celebrating events past and more about making memories today. I think a focus on the present and on community are values that all secular people can get behind.