Tag Archives: party

Of Cars and Celebrations

New Year’s Day was wonderful. I walked into town in the morning to go to the cinema, and there were almost no cars on the road. It was so much quieter. I could hear bird song. Roads that normally have too heavy a flow for me to cross were suddenly safe to saunter over. The whole atmosphere of the centre of town was massively improved. Usually the roads around the middle of Stroud are full of cars at that time of day.

As the majority of people had partied into the early hours the night before, they were at home, sleeping it off. By the afternoon, the roads were still significantly quieter than usual.

We need, for our own safety and the wellbeing of the planet to drive less. Air pollutions kills something like 40,000 people a year in the UK alone. Car accidents kill. The climate crisis kills. Sedentary lifestyles kill. Social isolation is an epidemic. More people walking and fewer people driving would have an impact on all this. However, people are reluctant to give up cars when they see them as necessary to daily life, or intrinsic to their quality of life.

So I’m thinking we need more parties.

Imagine if we had more regular festivals (8 a year? One a month?) when it was socially expected that you would party. Many people enjoy parties and the social engagement is good. And then we have the day after the big party when it is socially expected that most people will sleep until midday and then not do much. Meanwhile anyone who wants to live quietly can give the party a miss and have a wonderful quiet and much safer walk on the day after the party.

Part of the reason we’re struggling to make radical lifestyle changes to avert climate disaster, is the stories we have. Car = freedom. Driving=adventure. Happiness comes from owning possessions. If we had a party culture and it was normal to be involved in a huge community party each month and then sleep it off the next day, then the party could be the exciting, liberating thing, not the car. We’d have a day each month when driving wasn’t the thing, just as currently happens on New Year’s day. One day a month of change isn’t enough, obviously, but I bet we would see a culture shift.

Obviously this is a silly idea. Obviously more partying won’t happen. Obviously in our work-orientated culture, the idea that parties might be what we need, is preposterous. Having a good time is not the most sensible approach to making radical change. Because we’re so bought in to our work-earn-buy-consume narratives that it’s hard to imagine anything else.

If we’re going to change everything, we do in fact need to radically re-imagine things.

The Pagan Party

It’s not a political post today nor is it about dancing naked! Having been a bit grumpy in my Druids New Year blog, I thought it made sense to follow through with a much more positive post about how to have a good party, pagan style. Experience to date inclines me to feel that pagans often have the best parties. Here’s some key ingredients.

Setting: A party doesn’t have to be a late night drunken affair. I’ve been to some great afternoon musters – picnics especially – light on alcohol, high on social engagement, good food, and good entertainment.

Food: I’ve been to parties where people would only eat familiar looking things out of packets. Shop-bought party food tends to be heavy on the packaging waste, as well as being a bit bland and familiar. Back when I was doing a folk club and a bardic circle, we had a developing culture of making, and bringing food. It became normal to see homemade and strange innovations in ritual as well as at picnics and parties. Good food can be the making of a gathering. Warm food, nourishing, surprising food. I used to do a Halloween gathering with homemade soup. The year of the blood and eyeballs with worms soup was particularly good. (Beetroot, tiny onions, noodles). It does take a culture shift away from what partiers are used to, but is worth it, and tends to result in real food, and salvageable leftovers rather than a well stuffed bin.

Mood: Not having an enforced mood for a party helps. Multiple spaces so that people can step away, chill out, having meaningful conversations, play their own music etc, really works. Parties where everyone has been rounded up and required to conform to a ‘norm’ – no matter what it is – are not as much fun. Trust the event to find its own shape. Sometimes the best parties are the quiet ones.

Drinks: I’ve been to some great gatherings that involved no alcohol at all. I like alcohol, but there’s no need to assume it’s an essential for a good muster. Having plenty of good non-alcoholic drinks is always a good idea, means the designated non-drinkers don’t feel so awkward, and you aren’t creating a ‘must get rat arsed’ atmosphere. Again, diversity and creativity are good.

Entertainment: Sometimes it helps to have some kind of focus, it depends a lot on your people. Space for people to get some music going is usually good. Often though, it’s the things that aren’t planned that can be the most memorable. I still recall a party from years ago when we all ended up lying on the drive, in the dark, watching a meteor shower. Spontaneous late night drunken walks are also a long standing favourite of mine. Not being afraid to go with the flow can be the
making of a good night, while rigidly adhering to the plan, no matter what, is often less fun.

What makes a pagan party work, is the people. Having a good crowd of creative, like minded folk who will roll in with guitars, cakes, homemade wine and an open mind is the best bet for a great night. If you know how to have fun and don’t therefore need to get sloshed in order to relax a bit, it’s much easier to party. If you feel comfortable with your companions, that’s also a real plus. Where people are obsessed with image, reputation, self importance and the like, they don’t tend to have so much fun. The right social circle for a great party is the hardest thing to get in place, the most time consuming to establish. It takes work to build a strong community, time to forge deep friendships, support to help people more used to the real world to feel at home, but it can be done.

I noticed, reading Kevan Manwaring’s Turning the Wheel, that his idea of how to party and mine are very much the same. Soulful party, real things happening, real sharing, and good tipple. If you want some ideas, his is a good book to look over. It’s not just a party book, but it is very much about how to celebrate life as we encounter it, and the fine art of making it up as you go along!