Why Christmas is a ceilidh and Easter a silent disco

Maybe it's because I'm from Northern Ireland and grew up in the era of the regular 1980s church ceilidh/hootenanny/barn dance night, but I love celebrating special occasions with foot-tapping music and cringeworthily exuberant dancing.

I remember as a teenager, our church would regularly come together for 'hootenanny' night when we invited our friends and neighbours to join us for a serious shindig.

PixabayDo we want everyone to take part in the Easter dance?

Strictly routines looked simple in comparison to the highly complex dance moves required on such an occasion. There was the Do-si-do, the Gay Gordons and The Basket Swing – the manoeuvre when you were picked up and flung around wildly before being dumped back onto the (now spinning) floor, squishing the toe of the person next to you.

The wonder/horror of the hootenanny/ceilidh/barn dance was that it wasn't a spectator sport. It was all about the eye contact, the shared experience, the linking arms awkwardly with a freshly swapped partner.

It wasn't slick or cool but it was a celebration that generated a real sense of feel-good togetherness. Whether it was harvest, Christmas or Easter we were celebrating, local friends could join in the celebration – everyone got to have a go.

These days things have moved on and the 'silent disco' is the order of the day.

If you haven't been to one before, it's an event where people dance to music they're listening to on wireless headphones rather than speakers.

Silent discos – aka 'quiet parties'- allow the dancers to dance to their own beat, boogie-ing on down to a genre of their choice – sometimes via multiple DJ channels.

Silent disco companies advertise themselves as being perfect for not creating a disturbance, sound pollution or annoying the neighbours.

My first silent disco experience was in an amazing outdoors location. It was on the roof terrace of the Southbank Centre, under a starry sky, overlooking the Thames.

The fact that I was nine months pregnant at the time meant that I looked and felt like a heffalump in heels– but I didn't care, as I was a heffalump in dancing heaven, determined to dance until I (not the baby) dropped.

My pregnant state meant that I had to regularly stop to catch my breath, as my lung capacity had been drastically reduced by my oversized baby boy inside.

The moment I took my headphones off, the whole thing took on a totally different feel.

Without headphones, I couldn't hear the music or feel the pulsating rhythms in my chest. I could only hear the out-of-tune strains of made up song words being belted out by the deliriously dizzy divas on the dancefloor.

I suddenly became aware of lots of other people without headphones who were now on the fringes – completely cut off from the music. Passers-by looked puzzled, amused, and some wandered over and attempted to join in – waiting in vain for an offer of headphones.

The headphoned hordes were completely oblivious to those who couldn't hear their music. The odd person made an attempt to offer their headsets to those without, and one or two tried to share theirs with one other. But everyone else was happy to carry on regardless.

It made me think. With such a fantastic soundtrack, what a shame that not everyone gets to join in the party. Maybe old school hootenannies have more to offer than we thought?

Easter is fast approaching and to many of us it is a time where we feel really connected to the amazing soundtrack of hope and joy and new life that it offers us.

But in our awkwardness at stepping on anyone's toes, or about not being cool and slick enough, are we keeping the headphones to ourselves and opting for a 'quiet party' which won't disturb anyone and will hopefully go unnoticed by our neighbours?

In Wikipedia's description of the silent disco it says,'Those without the headphones hear no music, giving the effect of a room full of people dancing to nothing.'

The thing about the silent disco, as for us who are in relationship with Jesus, is that for those with headphones, there's a joyous sense of connection with the music – you are literally in the zone and feel blissfully free to throw some shapes or belt out your favourite heart-pumping anthem with wild abandon.

You can forget about everyone else and get lost in the music.

At special seasons like Easter are our celebrations more like a silent disco than an open invitation to join in the party?

My 10-year-old hits the nail on the head for me when he says, 'Mum, why do we make such a huge deal about Christmas – with cards, trees, lights, special songs, decorations, and parties with our friends and neighbours – but Easter for most people becomes all about the chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny? Isn't Easter more of a big deal for us than Christmas?'

It's got me thinking.

Why is Christmas more ceilidh, and Easter more silent disco?

Have we simply succumbed to the pressure of our culture to privatise our faith?

Tom and Christine Sine in their book The Mustard Seed Conspiracy talk about how they intentionally seek ways to share joy-filled seasons with their friends and neighbours. They hold regular parties, including a massive one at Easter. They send cards, decorate their house and garden with lights, and even painted a few walls yellow as the colour of Easter – representing the pumping joy, hope and new life in all its fullness that Jesus offers.

How we can be more intentional about creating opportunities to celebrate this season with our community as we do so naturally at Christmas?

As we celebrate the amazing, soul-soaring soundtrack that Jesus's life and death and resurrection connects us with, how can we more creatively offer headphones to others so they can step onto the dancefloor too?

How can we make this Easter more ceilidh than silent disco?

Esther Stansfield is a freelance writer and blogger who has worked for Tearfund and Scripture Union.

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