Festivals

Tomorrow’s the first day of fall. Listening to the pagan hooting of a flock of Canada geese on their way south — I hope they’re travelers, and not just the lazy ones who hang around town all winter long — I wonder if it’s time to get a jump on the annual local obsession with snow. It is too early to bring out the Snow God (avert your eyes, and do not click here, lest you displease Him), but not too early to discuss why Syracuse can’t get together a meaningful midwinter festival.

I wonder if part of the problem — aside from general incompetence in economic development — has to do with a lack of worshipful attitude toward snow here. Sure, we accept it, we survive it, and even cling to it in pride. But it takes more than pride to get a festival going. There has to be some kind of deep awe involved, some kind of honor paid to something more vital, bigger and more wonderful and/or terrible than ourselves at the heart of the bacchanal. (Even the original Oktoberfest in Germany had to do with honoring the wedding of a couple of royals.) And with something as powerfully elemental as snow — not just snow, but the mightiest snow machine on the North American continent — maybe a festival needs to be more than just setting up a few tents with the usual vendors.

But can 21st-century Americans worship anything in this way? What do we worship? Spiritual leaders presiding over their weekly services in mainstream congregations all over the country probably are wondering the same thing.