Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pagan Thoughts at the Parade of Lights

Last fall I looked for Pagan virtues in a small-town "Pioneer Day" parade.

Similar thoughts ran through my mind last night watching an even smaller town's "Parade of Lights."

The procession was about one block long: two pieces of fire apparatus, the local mountain search-and-rescue group (yellow jackets, hard hats, head lamps), another flatbed truck or two, various kids and dogs.

On the sidewalk, Father Christmas greeted spectators and drinkers.

Even though the American Thanksgiving holiday was established during the Great Depression to signal the start of the holiday shopping season, many towns now re-celebrate that spending spree with a "Parade of Lights," a secular solsticial event.

Most seem to be sponsored by downtown merchants' associations. (You can't have a traditional parade at a shopping mall.) Stores stay open late hoping to sell things to the spectators.

Some years ago, a Pagan group had a float in Colorado Springs' Parade of Lights, a first in that city, often jokingly called "Fort God" for its combination of military bases and big-name Protestant "ministries," like Focus on the Family.

Maybe the frankly secular and capitalist nature of the event was a plus. Pay your entry fee, get a place in the parade.

Other parades, such as those on St. Patrick's Day or Columbus Day, have their definite sense of "ownership." Sponsoring organizations are pickier about who they permit to march.

I wrote "frankly secular," but we Pagans see a brave display of light against the incoming darkness--not to mention the cold wind sweeping down from the mountains ahead of today's snowstorm.

We are used to the dichotomy of light and dark, of order and chaos, Apollo and Dionysus--or their equivalents. Perhaps commerce and gift-giving are another pair.

These pairs will contend with each other forever.

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Anonymous Matt Gerlach said...

"These pairs will contend with each other forever."

Or dance with each other, as the case may be.

3:01 PM  

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