Holidays and Traditions
Unitarian Universalists honor and celebrate a wide range of holidays and occasions over the course of a year. The holidays and traditions celebrated by UUCC can vary from one year to the next, but below are a few that have become mainstays of our congregation.
Burning Bowl Ceremony
On or near the first Sunday in January, many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold a ritual to bid farewell to the old year, and to release it.
In the words of Rev. Elizabeth Harding, “The fire communion separates the end of the year from the beginning, helping us to put in perspective the joys and sorrows, the changes and transitions, the ups and downs of the year. It’s a half-way point in our church year, but a celebration of the outside calendar’s year’s end and year’s beginning.”
In a ceremony of the burning bowl, people are invited to write down write down words, or a phrase, to sum up what they wish to release before entering the new year. They then come forward to burn that piece of paper.
The Flower Ceremony, sometimes referred to as Flower Communion or Flower Festival, is an annual ritual that celebrates beauty, human uniqueness, diversity, and community.
Originally created in 1923 by Unitarian minister Norbert Capek of Prague, Czechoslovakia, the Flower Ceremony was introduced to the United States by Rev. Maya Capek, Norbert’s widow.
In this ceremony, everyone in the congregation brings a flower. Each person places a flower on the altar or in a shared vase. The congregation and minister bless the flowers, and they’re redistributed. Each person brings home a different flower than the one they brought.
The Water Communion, also sometimes called Water Ceremony, was first used at a Unitarian Universalist (UU) worship service in the 1980s. Many UU congregations now hold a Water Communion once a year, often at the beginning of the new church year (September).
Members bring to the service a small amount of water from a place that is special to them. During the appointed time in the service, people one by one pour their water together into a large bowl. As the water is added, the person who brought it tells why this water is special to them. The combined water is symbolic of our shared faith coming from many different sources. It is often then blessed by the congregation, and sometimes is later boiled and used as the congregation’s “holy water” in child dedication ceremonies and similar events.
Blessing of the Animals
Sunday closest to October 4. In the Roman Catholic tradition, October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis (1182-1226) was a monk who founded the contemporary order of Franciscans. He was known for his vow of poverty and his special connection to animals, among many other things. Many Unitarian Universalists have picked up on the Catholic tradition of blessing animals, particularly pets, on this day. St. Francis may receive little attention at this service, but a number of congregations will bless pets at the service. Some people bring their pets to church, others bring photographs of their pets; others have their pets blessed by naming them. Some congregations celebrate this service at other, variable times of the year.
Usually December 22.
Winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Traditionally, it is a time of both foreboding and expectancy, as the longest night leads to the return of the sun. “Solstice” in Latin means “the sun standing still.”
The Winter Solstice has become important to both humanists and pagans, who can find common ground in celebrating this occasion. Themes can include light amid darkness; the death of nature and the cycle of life; the darkness just before the dawn; the miracle of every birth.