In the mainstream, you have pretty much two choices with holidays: you can observe them as is, or your can ignore them. “Should we go to the fireworks?” “Are you going trick or treating?” “What did Santa get you?” “Will you be my valentine?” In the relatively insular commune culture, we can (and oft do) deconstruct holidays and make something different and better or if we can’t tie them into our current community culture (like the 4th of July and Memorial Day) we also skip them.
My favorite holiday is validation day. It is the twisted sister to Valentines Day, in a switch reminiscent of how The Mists of Avalon mirrors the Knights of King Arthur’s Court. Valentines Day celebrates the love between romantic partners, how could anyone be opposed to this? Well, what if you dont have a romantic partner? Or what if you have several? Or what if your partner recently broke up with you in a messy way. Well, then Valentines Day maybe confusing or a drag for you this year.
Validation Day dodges most of these problems, by starting with a different assumption. It works on the principal that we have important positive things to express to each other and by creating vehicles and opportunities to express them, we will deepen our connections and build community. Like with Valentines Day, cards play an important role. Here at Twin Oaks a list of all the members goes up shortly after new years and someone signs up to make someone else’s card. [Corb and i signed up together to make Hawina‘s card this year, which turned out surprisingly well i thought.] Typically, the cards are in a multi-page collage format, where the words and images are representative of or inspired by the person the card is for.
Then typically dozens of people write various funny, validating and/or appreciative comments on the cards. It is like getting love letters from perhaps 30 to 40 people at once. Often recipients get teary eyed reading them. After the holiday, validation day card are occasionally used by their recipients as non-chemical anti-depressants. After the V-day dinner readers choose cards which they hold up (without revealing them) and read passages which are funny but not completely revealing of the identity of the cards recipient. Then the rest of the group tries to guess who the card is written to. Amusing moments this evening included when Paschal read a card that said “You are a great lover” and someone from the audience yelled out “you are not supposed to read your own card.”
Validation Day is one of our insular holidays. We dont go out of our way to invite outsiders to come, some good friends of community and some ex-members show up, but the kissing booth (or kissing chair as there was at this years event) does not have strangers engaged, adding safety and familiarity.
Another topic for another post is the the six creatures which is a similarly safe way for people to indicate that they want to hang out together, without being exposed to rejection and the anxiety it creates.
I got several lovely validations in my card this year. And my favorite one was the one i got from Willow, the first validation day card he has written in “Thanks for letting me stay up late.”