A preface: This article is not about the perfect excursion to relieve your tensions regarding coming doom and gloom. If you need a vacation from your constant worry, then you have become slave to it. Slaves don’t get to take holiday in Babylon! I wanted to share with friends and family some holidays that I feel were instituted specifically with the prepper in mind.
Many of us are well aware of the practical advantages of observing the sabbath. For those of faith it becomes obvious through practice. Those who are not religious but still enjoy a day of rest will doubtless recognize that this day of laziness is not wasted. Not only does it offer us time to relax and recharge, but time to reflect on the six days of work (or perhaps lack of.).
My family have long been observant of the sabbath but had never observed other festivals of the Bible. (I don’t propose to convince the reader whether these festivals are commanded or not of modern generations, however.) I have chosen to celebrate them with my family and teach them to my children.
The keeping of these celebrations offers practical advantages to the faithful which only experience reveals fully and words do not suffice.
I have decided to only write about the two holidays with which I am most familiar and for which I have the most affection. Others more experienced may rightly point out that I deny justice to the wonderful holidays I have not included. But, my experience is limited by our slow rate of travel round the sun and lack of encouragement I received from our local spiritual community. Of the major holidays required of the ancient Hebrew people, I find most useful the holidays of Pasach and Sukkot, otherwise known as passover and tents/tabernacles.
Celebrating these holidays starts by finding them. It’s not as simple as looking to the calendar and saying “Look, July 4th. Fireworks!”. Yet it is simple none the less, and does not require inspection of a device that must be carried with you or placed on your wall. Every small child learns quickly that the sun passes across the sky during the day and the setting sun marks the end of outdoor playtime. Some (my children) learn that time of day and direction can be generally ascertained by watching for this sign. What was once common knowledge to the lonely shepard and astrologer alike and is no longer common knowledge, is that by watching the moon it is possible to determine what day of the month it is with a small margin of error. It won’t help determining the days of the civil or gregorian calendar, of course. Noting the phases and completion of moons and counting them will help you determine when to have all of your nuts and berries packed away in your squirrel nest and when you should expect to emerge to plant your crops and assist in livestock giving birth. When you have been cut off from normal social contact and modern media, and your 20xx calendar doesn’t arrive in the mail because there is no USPS or Fedex, and when you have long forgotten whether it’s Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, or August, or September, the moon will be there for you!
The first sighting of a crescent moon indicates the beginning of the month. There are differences among observers regarding whether the day of the crescent or the day before is to be regarded as day one in the month, however I am content that the idea serves as a model for a people reliant upon providence of nature or deity. Meetings among remote groups of related or united people can easily be arranged in advance without need of device simply by counting the passage of days from the sighted crescent, which will appear the same day for my family in Oklahoma as our relatives and friends in neighboring states and communities. The anticipation of celebration or solemn ceremony heightens awareness of the passing days and lends to a more accurate count. There is always the possibility of cloud coverage for a particular region, in which case some communities may not be able to sight the crescent. For the benefit of those whose sighting is obscured, ancient Israelite communities that had clear view and could sight the crescent would sound a horn at high elevation enabling other expectant peoples or individuals to begin a count regardless of cloud coverage. The use of this horn of course is to protect against the margin of error previously mentioned.
Exodus 12 contains the first mention of my Prepper’s holiday. It is a document that modern scholars can agree has been used for more than two thousand years and contains the story of an ancient people fed up with slavery. When the protagonist Joseph arrived in a foreign land he found wealth and prosperity after great ordeal. This wealth and prosperity was shared for many generations but ultimately his descendants found themselves slaves to the system that had been of such benefit. Many patriots today can relate to this predicament. In preparation for the coming declaration of freedom for these people, a holiday was provided. This holiday is not simply a time to munch down, or hope for a new toy. It is a mental and physical preparation for the conditions required of a free people. Passover approaches and it is fitting that I should share this event first.
The holiday is determined by counting 14 days from the sighting of the first crescent of the spring, at which point the moon will appear nearly full. The light provided by the full moon allows for nighttime activity which may be regarded as clandestine by those not participating. On the first night an animal is slaughtered. It is to be a year old male sheep or goat. The practical reasoning for this is not obvious to those who don’t tend some sort of livestock, but those of us who witness a large number of hatched cockerels or bucklings kidding in spring, quickly adapt to the idea of dispatching the year old rooster that has begun attacking guests, or the young buck, newly invigorated with his masculine hormones, decides he’s going to begin ramming you. Because new bucklings are born, and the yearlings have already done business with the does, these guys are obvious candidates for culling before the big break from captivity.
Instructions for the holiday include placement of a sign upon the dwellings of confederated parties in order to prevent death by friendly fire. Participants are instructed to prepare along with the culled yearlings, bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. You will find that edible bitter herbs are abundant for the wilderness traveler, and that flat dry bread packs nicer and lasts longer than the puffy and moist Wonderbread that we use to encase a picnic lunch. The meat is to be entirely consumed the first night. None is left to rot, attract scavengers, or be confiscated. All of this activity is done with awareness of the events to come and so the instruction to eat with cloak tucked into belt, shoes on the feet, and staff in hand is a protocol for SHTF preparedness. On this night (and every full moon) our family checks survival gear and makes certain that everything is ready to go should the need arise to head out the door forever to secure the blessings liberty.
Instructions for the holiday include seven days during which unleavened bread is to be prepared. In the zeal to produce a bread nearly void of yeast it is necessary to remove all yeast from the house in order to prevent airborne yeast from infecting the dough. This requires thorough cleaning and inspection of the home. In the process of looking for something so tiny and seemingly insignificant as invisible yeast, you will uncover every other imaginable flaw in your dwelling as well. Discipline in making this activity a yearly occurrence will provide the practitioner with a deeper situational awareness of his or her fortress and improvements that need to be made over the following year.
I have read that COSTCO is offering 6 gallon pails of long term storage foods. This may or may not be practical for you. For “do it yourself” types the preparation of unleavened bread serves as a wonderful model for homemade meals that pack lite, last long, and leave no plastic package behind as evidence of travel route. During these seven days the practitioner rests from labor and prepares mind and body for dangerous adventure and develops resolve concerning the decision to be free. As the full moon wanes, light sensitivity of the observer adjusts to the change resulting in excellent nighttime vision in comparison to those not preparing for the event or recently acclimated to operating by moonlight.
Moses told the Israelites to keep this tradition for all generations to come. It is a constant reminder of the path from slavery to freedom coupled with some very logical strategies to continually prepare for recurrent need.
The second holiday I want to share with you is Sukkot, also called festival of the tents or “booths.” It is first mentioned in the book of Exodus chapter 23. After the exciting events surrounding the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, these newly freed people endured forty years of life on the run, living like vagrants in temporary shelters built from whatever they could scrap together in the wilderness. To be sure, this was a hard thing. Though slaves, these people had been living in modern homes according to Egypt’s standards and had no experience with “camping out”. They were apparently accustomed to fresh produce from the market and found no vendors in the barren Sinai Peninsula. Freedom is beautiful, but it is not easy.
The festival of tents is practiced in remembrance of the condition freed slaves often find themselves in. Upon release from incarceration, a felon may quickly learn that he has difficulty finding housing, employment opportunities may not be sufficient to provide adequate nutrition, and his social interaction and advancement among those not sharing this sad state is stifled by stigma. Newly obtained freedom is like this, and this is the situation faced by that ancient tribe.
Instructions for the practice of this holiday are found in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29. Again this festival is found by sighting the crescent in the seventh moon and counting 15 days, when the moon should be fullest. The practice involves the building of a temporary shelter of locally obtained materials. Presumably the Israelites used very crude materials to build dwellings. In our family we camp out and cook in our Sukkot booth for seven nights. We build pole structures from cut or fallen limbs and cover with jute cloth made for deer blinds, lining the interior with cheap lightweight tarps as windbreak/insulation. We build our stove from clay and/or stone found at the location. Everything is done under the assumption that we have limited resources for this temporary situation. This entire planned event forms a real impression on the mind of a child. They love to have a go at making their own structure, and starting their own fire to cook their own food. It is a holiday event that celebrates the accomplishment of being able to make it on your own without the luxuries of the place you left behind. Following through every year with this practice at a prescribed date allows the participants to gauge attained growth and develop a sense of which deficiencies need to be addressed. This holiday along with passover and feast of weeks forms a chain of celebrations which coincide with important harvests. We found in our days spent living in the Sukkot booth this past year that aside from the hay harvest we were wrapping up with, the wild grape vines were full of ripe fruit and the hackberry, pear, and persimmon trees which dot the Oklahoma landscape were covered in ripening little blessings as well. We consumed piles of wild grapes during our celebration and made puckery faces eating the persimmon flesh.
All of the preparations I have described herein are very basic, and common knowledge to the readers of this blog. My hope is to share a practical method of incorporating productive behaviors into, or understanding them to be present within, ancient traditions and festivities which I find most wholesome to embrace. When practiced with regularity like a fire drill, and with the attention which accompanies exciting events and holidays, preparedness can become an enjoyable tradition for your family that will endure for generations. If these are not your traditions or you don’t feel comfortable practicing traditions foreign to you, find these practical applications within the tradition of your people. If you have no traditions, it’s time to start some!