Special occasions might mean going out, but when an occasion is truly special, home is the only place to celebrate in a way that defines your personal style. At home, you can create just the right mood and the right atmosphere for a gathering of kindred spirits.
But it’s simple to create spaces for celebration, no matter where you are. All it takes is a few significant items, a special place (as spectacular as your polished dining room or as humble as your back yard) and the right combination of reverence and fun. Your aim is to create a welcoming sight that sets the tone for the event at hand. After that, well, it’s all about a little magic.
Celebration spaces must have food. It doesn’t need to be fancy, catered or even cooked. But to join together with friends or family on a special occasion is to follow the old tradition of breaking bread together.
Prepare your table anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in the dining room, or even in the house. We took advantage of a rare warm autumn day to spread a thick wool rug and prepare for a feast for eight.
In a nod to traditions of the past, the fruit and bread symbolize the harvest, while the candles symbolize the sun and its journey across the sky.
The place settings are forged of pewter and of green and golden glass, two natural elements. No picnic plastic here; the sterling silverware lends a sense of occasion — also necessary for a momentous gathering.
A jug of water represents the ebb and flow of life. To connect with the earth, we used rocks and fir tree branches, which symbolize purification, for decoration. The pine cones are meant to inspire psychic oneness, hopefully of the participants in the party.
If a squirrel or sparrow should happen by, it would be as welcome as the friends about to gather. Nothing exclusive here: We’re inviting the natural world to eat, sip wine and savor the late afternoon moment.
Your own gathering will benefit, too, from whatever symbolic elements you bring to it. Adapt as necessary, referring, if you like, to the resources listed on the following page. And then welcome your guests and whatever they bring to the table. Your party magic is already under way.
Your celebration — be it house party, romantic dinner or family get-together — needs a central focal point. The brightly decorated Christmas tree, the lit menorah, the barbecue grill in warmer seasons — they’re all examples of this kind of gathering point. It’s where the celebration’s energy comes to a focus, a place where you can pause and reflect upon the occasion.
A celebration altar isn’t necessary for a great party, but it adds another dimension. It brings the past into the present with old items displayed, and carries the celebration into the future when you eat the food items from the altar afterward.
We created a spare, meaningful altar, which can be adapted to your own needs and desires. The candle represents personal enlightenment, the flame the energy of the people at the party. The oranges represent sweetness and fertility. The book was chosen for its significance (you might want to use a Bible, a book of poetry that has special meaning, or some other text), and the vase was chosen for its ability to reflect and refract light — it creates an otherworldly feeling that sets apart the celebration at hand. In the vase, the cattail represents life, while the feather stands for truth and change.
Keep in mind that an altar is what you make it. Your own interpretations are, ultimately, what make it work.
Resources: A Little Book of Altar Magic, by D.J. Conway (The Crossing Press, $9.95, 148 pp.); Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines Into Your Everyday Life, by Denise Linn (Ballantine, $24.95, 160 pp.); A Book of Pagan Rituals, edited by Herman Slater (Samuel Weiser, Inc., $14.95, 140 pp.). Styling: Rebecca Mazzei. Antique place settings and furnishings: Antiques on the Avenue and American Pop (22446 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-399-0339). Location: Ferndale.Alisa Gordaneer is MT features editor. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org