The 31st Annual Great Dickens Christmas Faire

Last weekend, Beth and I decided to continue our annual visit to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party.  I wrote about this last year, too, and won’t spend a lot of time on it here, only to mention that we had a great time in spite of the gate cost.

What amazes me every year is that in an era of mass commercial production of goods, there exists an entire subculture economy of people who still hand-craft their products.  We had a pleasant conversation with a couple who make clothes and sell them not only at the Dickens Fair but all of the Renaissance Faires and SCA events, too.   You can visit their website at http://www.VelvetBedlam.com.

The cost of these goods is considerably more than what you’ll find at retailers like Target and Wal-Mart.  Quality hand-crafted goods will always be more expensive.  But if you’re the kind of person who would rather buy the cheap plastic crap at those stores, then the Dickens Fair/Renaissance Faire/SCA really isn’t for you anyway.

We spent most of our time taking in the stage shows and other presentations, which were free if you don’t count the gate cost.  We splurged and bought some roasted chestnuts and fudge, but for the most part the food was way over priced, and the argument could not be made that it was hand-crafted.

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Lughnasadh or Lammas or Just the Summer Cross-Quarter?

I need to start this blog by saying that I’m not a Wiccan.  Nor am I a Christian.  My faith is actually none of your business and I refuse to let it be dictated by people selling snake oil, or whose motivations are based on worldly power, but I need to clear up those two points.

However, I like the idea of celebrating the progress of the year and the cycles of life.  So I looked at the neo-pagan concept of the Great Octal – the eight points of the tropical year – the solstices, the equinoxes and the cross-quarter days.

And truth be told, this is not strictly a Wiccan or Neo-pagan idea.  The year is the universal time-keeper on Earth.  No matter where the culture flourished, everybody celebrates the year. Stone-age observatories for indicating various points of the year can be found all over the planet, and I suspect that the vast majority of them didn’t survive.  I made one myself while in high school using the shadow of a telephone pole that fell into our backyard.  I marked the octals with concrete markers, but Dad didn’t much appreciate that, and it disappeared when I went away to college.

I found this archaeoastronomy site a couple of years ago, and like it because it bases it’s marks of the octals on astronomical data, not tradition.  It bases the marks of the cross-quarters at the point that is half-way between the solstice and the equinox in number of degrees, not number of days.  This works for me!

August 7th is approaching, which, according to the archaeoastronomy site, is called Lughnasadh.  But I have no idea how to pronounce this, even after doing a lot of internet research. (If you want to teach me how to pronounce it, please send an mp3 file.  I want to hear it, not see it.)  But it’s also called Lammas in Scotland.  I just call it the Summer Cross-Quarter.

We also celebrate full moons because it’s a fun thing to do.  Usually we celebrate it with seasonal food.  According to some sites, the full moon in August is the Sturgeon Moon.  Well, that’s the name according to native American tribes who live in the Eastern part of the continent.  We live in the Western part and have no desire for sturgeon, so we changed the name to the Watermelon Moon, and celebrate accordingly.  We changed a few of the other full moon names, too.  They aren’t official, so we can call them whatever we want.

Happy Summer Cross-Quarter day!