An option for a different kind of New Yearís ceremony is one called a Give-Away. This type of ceremony has been around in one form or another for centuries. Agricultural villages throughout the world would distribute any food surplus during seasonal festivals such as those during the winter Solstice. Native Americans of the plains and the Pacific Northwest held them regularly until the white settlers saw them as a threat to the capitalist values that they were trying instill in the native population.
This deeply embedded cultural value for Native Americans dictated that it would be shameful for someone to horde a surplus while others were in need. Very different indeed! In my book Sacred Ceremony I describe the purpose and instructions on how to sponsor a Give-Away:
A give-away ceremony can be as simple as asking guests to bring very practical items, such as food, clothing, or other useful things to be exchanged. Another way is to have the guests bring an object that has personal meaning, one that might be difficult to let go. This object will have a story that goes with it, one that says something about the owner. With this type of ceremony, the group should be relatively small, ideally about eight to twelve people, at maximum, twenty.
Itís best that the object be one that symbolizes a personal triumph over a challenge, or some life transition the person has gone through. Or it can represent a part of the person that they have outgrown, or an object that was quite useful for a time in their lives, but now has mainly sentimental value. Itís critical that those invited understand and are clear about the intention of the ceremony and how to choose the appropriate item.
A give-away is not about giving away something that you no longer have use for, or passing along a gift someone else gave you for which you had no use anyway. Instead, itís about passing along an object that represents something significant about you, and in turn when you give it to someone else, youíre passing along that significanceóand that blessingóto them.
I gave away a homemade rattle at one of these types of ceremonies. It was a beautiful rattle, one of the first Iíd ever made, hand-painted with symbols that had been given to me in a journey. When this idea first came to my attention, it was the first thing that popped into my mind. I initially rejected it, because I really liked that rattle, and it signified my deepening involvement with shamanic work. I still miss that rattle sometimes, however, I also know that the person who received it will benefit from owning it.
In exchange I received a small, jade, Buddha figure. It continues to occupy a center place on the living room altar, and seems quite content to do so. Iím certain its owner had some reservations about letting it go. The story associated with this Buddha was that someone else had given this to her during a protracted and potentially life-threatening illness. She remembers how comforting it was sitting at her bedside during her illness and recovery, and was four years recovered at the time of this particular give-away ceremony.
When you consciously coordinate this type of ceremony with Earthís seasonal holidays, the act of such giving isnít only a relinquishment, it becomes a metaphor for the release or death of the old season. The act of receiving something new in your life is a metaphor for opening yourself to whatever the next cycle brings, to a rebirth or new beginning.
If you do this ceremony outdoors, create the sacred space by having a physical circle within which participants may carry their gifts. If indoors, consecrate the space that will be used for the ceremony. In either case, place a blanket or small table in the center of the circle where you and your guests will put the objects to be offered. Have everyone hold onto their gifts for the time being. Have a candle burning in the middle of the altar, and perhaps decorated with other items appropriate to the season. For instance, a bough of fir during the winter seasons, flowers during the spring, or fallen leaves during autumn.
Once everyone has gathered, open the ceremony with incense, prayer, and a song or music. Let everyone know what the intention is, that one of the tasks is to let go of whatever they brought with them, and to do so with gratitude. Difficult sometimes, but very possible to do. Answer any questions that may come up, then proceed.
First each person takes a couple of minutes to describe what they brought to give away, and what meaning it has for them. Then they describe what they hope the gift brings to the recipient, who at this point is unknown. Once they have told the story of the gift, then they place it on the altar.
There are a couple of different ways to administer the giving and receiving of the items that participants brought. One way is to have someone choose the gifts to be given, and who will receive these. Designate either the youngest or oldest in the group to do so. Explain that itís best they follow their intuition in their choices and they donít have to make any logical sense. They would start with one of the gifts and give it to the intuited recipient. The recipient may comment or not. The one choosing the gifts continues until all are given away.
An alternative is to have everyone place their gifts on the altar when they first arrive. When itís time to start, get everyone seated, and designate someone in the circle to start the process. This person chooses the gift to which theyíre most drawn and asks who the giver is. The giver then tells their story about the gift. Then the giver becomes the next recipient, choosing one of the other gifts. This continues until all the gifts are dispersed.
With either procedure, once the gifts are all accounted for, open the floor for sharing observations and comments. Once this is complete, then itís time for a shared feast. As is true in these types of celebrations, be sure to ask everyone ahead of time to bring a dish of food to share.
Read more: Community Service, Contests & Giveaways, Do Good, Family, Global Healing, Guidance, Inspiration, Life, Make a Difference, Mental Wellness, New Year, Peace, Self-Help, Spirit, Uncategorized, awareness, Dr. Steven Farmer, Family Life, give and take, Give-away, happiness, Inspiration, peace, philanthropy, recycle, reuse, Sacred Ceremony, spirit
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.