Raising Kids in the Revels World: Birthdays, Rhythms and Spring

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The author’s son at an earlier birthday, dancing in birthday crown and cape.

It’s not my son’s birthday today, but there are 40 people singing a birthday song to him (and to two other people). My son is turning 9. One of the other people is turning 41, and the other is turning 73. The song isn’t the traditional “Happy Birthday” song. There are many people harmonizing, and there’s accompaniment on a half dozen ukuleles. Sound like a good quirky story?

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A community of Revelers singing and dancing in the rain.

Something just like it happens every month at Washington Revels-Carpe Diem monthly Community Sing– birthday songs celebrate all the people who have a birthday that month. My son is glowing. It’s May, and his birthday isn’t for another week, but he has been gleefully anticipating it all month, since the word “May” to him means, “my birthday month.”

Since Revels is founded on the significance of seasonal and traditional celebrations, the idea of a birthday month isn’t just a childish notion—it is the idea that each month brings its own expressions of the season and its own traditions to be honored and celebrated. May is a good month to be a kid growing up in the Revels world, whether it’s your birthday or not. May is the time for May Day and Maypole dances, and singing in the May. For my son and his three siblings, the meanings they’ve come to associate with “May” are just part of their logical understanding of the world. Kids have a natural instinct toward rhythms, so seasons, traditions, holidays, and special days are just a way they’ve learned to navigate the world.

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May, like every month at Revels, is a good time for singing and dancing.

For us adults, we may be relearning it. Our natural rhythms get overshadowed by outside forces. April means taxes. Halloween means managing the sudden surge of sugar in the house. Christmas means long To Do lists. But Revels is about recalling and reliving the natural and historical meanings of the seasons and the months. May is a good month to be an adult in the Revels world too—an excuse to wear a flower crown and to sing hundreds-year old songs that remind us to glance up from our cell phones and notice the blooming heather (well, okay, blooming lilacs, since we aren’t in England).

Whatever month your birthday is, it’s a great month to be a kid or an adult in the Revels world. For as far back as we know, humans have been inventing reasons to mark time by rituals and celebrations. From Revels, my children are learning how to understand their small world and the big world– through new and old routines, through natural and human determiners, and in today’s beautifully interracial society, through the varied traditions of humans from around the globe.

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We can carry images and experiences of Reveling with us wherever we go.

What Revels offers to all of us, parents and children, happens many times in every month: it’s the building of a moral compass, a value system, and a joyful map of humanity. If we carry that map with us every day in school or work, to the grocery store or the doctor’s waiting room, or to family celebrations, we will find the Revels joy will serve us well there.

May and birthdays are only the beginning of a discussion about how Revels grows healthy children. It’s a conversation we can have year round.

This is the first in a series of exploring what it means to parent children in the Revels World.