Athena’s Day in Sandus has traditionally been known as our very own “Thanksgiving” given in honour of our matron goddess, Athena. The holiday is derived from the ancient Athenian holiday of the Chalkeia, a holiday dedicated to bronze-working artisans and workers at the end of the month of Pyanopsion. Dedicated to the god Hephaestos and the goddess Athena Erganê, we know very little about the holiday but we do know—the little we do from a fragment of Sophocles—that a procession happened involving people carrying baskets of grain, such as the kanephoroi, and that the peplos, or robe, for the large cult statue of Athena in the Parthenon was begun ahead of the Panathenaia games. Not much to go on for such a symbolically important Sandum holiday!
Traditionally in Sandus, the holiday has been treated as an analogue to American or Canadian Thanksgiving, but we would like to change that and develop our own traditions. So, we have a few suggestions:
First, that we respond to the tradition of grain-carriers in a creative way. In doing so, we can distinguish ourselves from our neighbours in the food we choose to prepare for the holiday. In lieu of turkey, we instead propose making a seitan roast—a gluten-based substitute that can be prepared without meat or animal products. Seitan has a long history in meat-replacement among Buddhist communities in China, Japan, and other Buddhist countries. In preparing a seitan roast, perhaps even with more traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, we can be connected to the tradition of the Athenian grain-bearing processions, Buddhist vegetarian diets, and to our contemporary vegetarian and vegan friends and family—as well as making this tradition wholly our own while also responding to and building off of the traditions of Americans and Canadians.
Second, that we should develop a new tradition based on the artistic quality of the Athenian festival. We propose vowing the creation of more artistic work in the period from Athena’s Day to the Minervalia, the birthday of our matron Athena. Like a secular Sandum Lenten season, this period of the year can be dedicated to the inward-turning that we already envision in winter. Already some ideas have been floated from vowing drawing more to embracing more cultural products. This goal can, as well, be wide ranging—from artistic to creative in other ways, such as with baking, cooking, musical, etc. This should call us back to our roots as creative people: instead of striving to achieve productivity in our disciplines or places of work, we should seek a balance and strive, as well, to fulfil our means and our needs of expression.
Third, that Athena’s Day should mark the beginning of the winter holiday season in our country. In suggesting this, we both reject the increased profit-making of our contemporary macronational societies and their corporations as they push the holiday season earlier and earlier, and we also reject the commercialisation of the holiday season. We reject the subordination of thanks-giving and autumnal holidays to Christmas: we embrace the need for thanksgiving and gratitude, to our friends and family or even to higher, loftier metaphysical concepts. But we also reject the need to maximise our spending and to fit the newest fashions in our gift-giving. Instead, we encourage each other and ourselves to buy local, to do more than just buy gifts and food. With the change from autumnal to winter holidays, which in Sandus span both December and January, we encourage our citizens and people generally to make gratitude and appreciation for common humanity a larger priority beyond the conventional winter holiday time.
In doing the suggestions above, we propose that Athena’s Day can both represent the ardent Sandum belief in radical self-determination and autonomy and encourage us to build upon our already-established (dare we say, traditional?) holidays to breathe a new breath of fresh air into our micronation. But these suggestions also embrace our micronation’s already-established cultural independence.