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Nature is full of holidays

Natural holidays, like the first snow, give us a way to celebrate every day.

“It’s like we had two holidays in one!” This was what an excited student told me the day after Halloween. I was in a classroom on November 1, and was asking their students how their Halloween had been while the teacher was setting up the room. It was clear the kids were still riding a wave of sugar-filled excitement and were eager to tell me what they had dressed up as and the best pieces of candy they had gotten the evening before.

So, when one student commented on the overnight snowfall, the first of the season, with the same amount of excitement the others used to describe their candy haul, I was thrilled. It was even better when she referred to it as “two holidays in one”.

As we get deeper into the holiday season, it’s easy to fall into a happy and festive mindset. I love the holidays: all the decorations, good food, festive music, and time with family. It’s also easy to see how commercialized these holidays have become, with stores beginning to stock holiday supplies months in advance, and all TV and radio commercials pushing the best holiday gifts.

It can be hard to break out of that commercial mindset: thinking about what presents to buy, what decorations to get, and what festive treats to eat.

This student gave me a well needed mental escape from that. To her, this natural phenomenon, the first snow of the season, was just as much a holiday as the candy and costume filled Halloween.

Unlike the established cultural holidays, these natural holidays can be found and celebrated any time of year. There are millions of these holidays, many of which go unnoticed. There are the showy ones, like the first snow of the year, the first thunderstorm of summer, the first flowers of the spring, or the first changing leaves of fall, but there are many smaller ones that we don’t always notice.

These smaller, natural, holidays can be a good excuse to celebrate, especially at times we don’t usually feel as festive. Finding these holidays can be a distraction from everyday life. They are happening every day, multiple times a day, and can be as unique as the people who celebrate them.

These holidays can be tailored to a person’s interests, preferences, or mood. Birders may celebrate the return of a certain warbler in the spring.

Botanists may celebrate the budding of a certain tree or bush. The first tiny legs on a growing tadpole, honking of geese flying overhead, bees buzzing around a flower, foggy morning, or seeing the return of a constellation are all holidays in their own right. Just recently I said my first hello to Orion as I looked out my bedroom window, a moment I celebrate every year.

These natural holidays don’t have to be big to-dos like the cultural ones, and I believe turning them into big to-dos would lessen their impact. These are passive holidays. They will happen with or without us. Their enjoyment has nothing to do with commercialism, special music, food,

or presents. They are always happening around us, and they are not created by or for the pleasure of people.

As I move through this upcoming year, I am going to try and take full advantage of these natural holidays. Feeling down on a blustery February day?

Boom, skunk cabbage flower holiday! In the dumps on a cold, rainy, spring day? Boom, budding bush holiday! About to drop of heat exhaustion in July? Boom, first wild black raspberry holiday!

Big or small, these holidays can be a source of joy on a day it’s really needed or add an extra treat to an already special day. They are happening everywhere, all around us. They can be experienced by everyone in a multitude of different ways, we just need to be on the lookout for them.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.

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