A Twin Oaks Holiday Calendar
This article first appeared in Communities magazine.
This alternative to Valentine's Day is the result of "cross- fertilization" between FEC communities. In the 80's, when East Wind member Cristy picked up and moved to Twin Oaks, he brought with him this tradition that ensures that February 14th is special for everyone, not just those with romantic interests. A card is handmade for each member, individually designed with the recipients' interests in mind. The cards are available for the first two weeks in February, during which time members are encouraged to write "validations" in each card. "I appreciate your hard work as our garden manager-thanks for helping provide us with yummy organic veggies!" Or for a new parent: "I love seeing you blossom as a new dad, caring for the beautiful child you've brought into our world" Or a simple "Seeing your quiet smile lightens my heart". The result is a personal card filled with loving, positive validations by the people we share our lives with. The finished products are handed out by the kids at a special Validation Day dinner.
As our collective birthday, June 16th holds a place of honor in the constellation of our holidays. Most people take the day off to frolic in the pond, enjoy a barbecue picnic with ex-members who come by for the day, and boogie late into the night at a lavish dance party. The Holiday Manager sometimes stages an Anniversary Fantasy Event, the most memorable of which was a twelve foot long chocolate fudge sundae, eaten with one rule: no hands allowed!
Twin Oaks has a relatively low population of children (ten to fifteen at any given time) and so a birth or adoption by a member is an infrequent and special event. For each new child to join our village, we plant a fruit tree. Friends and well-wishers gather together, and a young tree is lowered into the ground, often along with the child's placenta which has been saved for the occasion. Each person declares their hopes and dreams for the child's future as handfuls of dirt and compost fill in the space around the roots. This ritual provides a loving start in life for the child, and affirms the new parents' connection to the community.
Halloween Costume Parade
A perennial favorite, especially for the more creative among us. In mid-afternoon, we turn the tables and Twin Oaks kids dress up and parade through the community, handing out candy to adults! The evening brings our Costume Parade, in which each member is invited up to the stage and presents their costume or character. The latest trend is members disguising themselves as another member, borrowing distinctive articles of clothing, and adopting the chosen members' persona for the duration of the evening.
Alternatives Many Oakers spend this holiday with their biological families, and those who remain at home have several choices. Some opt for a delicious turkey or tofu dinner (turkeys provided by two ex-members who now run their own farm nearby). Others choose a "Simple Supper" of rice and beans, eaten with the awareness that for much of the world, even a basic meal is enough to give thanks for. A few members fast for the day, and send the money that would have been spent on food to organizations that fight world hunger.
As a secular community, Twin Oaks follows no particular spiritual path and this choice is left up to individual members. As a result, we have quite an eclectic variety of mid-winter holiday celebrations. The Winter Solstice is observed by some hardy souls who stay out all night with a Yule log burning down to embers. Each December 24th, Jake makes hot cider and we pass around "A Christmas Carol" for a collective re-telling of this classic tale. Some members choose to participate in Kwanzaa festivities in nearby Charlottesville, and others bring out their menorahs, either in public space or for personal use.
Creating New Holidays
One year, an enthusiastic Holiday Manager tried to introduce "home-grown holidays" based on FEC principles such as income-sharing and shared decision-making. A noble cultural pursuit, these holidays unfortunately never quite caught on. The posters the kids made of guns with big red "X"'s through them (symbolizing non-violence) graced the walls of the dining room for a few weeks, but we never managed to find just the right simple yet significant actions appropriate to the occasion.
In the meantime, we continue to celebrate holidays in that certain Twin Oaks style. We can look forward to seeing new traditions emerge from the culture we are creating, as we live our lives in alignment with our deepest values.