Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 202: Officially Re-Rooted

it's not everyday you get to see something like this (click to enlarge)

It doesn't get much more weird and wonderful (and p-townish) than the annual International Re-Rooter's Society Ceremony, lead by our arty friend Jay Critchley. Yesterday marked the 26th annual ceremony and when we asked him earlier in the day if the event was happening rain or shine (it had been raining/sleeting all day), he replied, "Nature Rules!". By the time we gathered at 4 p.m. the weather had calmed and the bay was smooth as glass. We joined the festivities by singing along to the "carols", cheering on Jay's bay-side "sermon", throwing our contribution into the impending fire (I burned the bomb and Liz some greenery), and wading into the chilly bay to watch the local media document Jay setting the last bits of the season afire. I have to say, there's nothing quite like saying farewell to our nation's consumptive holiday habits from a most spectacular setting with a small group of good natured strangers, singing nonsense, and watching the symbols of the season go up and out in a final blaze of glory. If you're on facebook, check out the video documentation here.

"It looks like a coven of witches performing some sort of ancient ritual around a fire on the beach. Or maybe it’s the strange practices of some secret society. This odd annual pilgrimage to the flats of the East End is actually the gathering of about one hundred members of the “International Re-Rooter’s Society” observing a holiday that is only celebrated in Provincetown. Provincetown artist Jay Critchley founded Re-Rooter’s Day in 1983. The purpose of the day is to encourage people to connect back to the earth after the over-consumption and excesses associated with the holiday season. Critchley created the holiday after visiting the Provincetown landfill one day and noticed all the trash created by the holidays. The date is always Jan. 7, but the time of the ritualistic ceremony is kept relatively secret. Only the die-hard re-rooters know. “Re-Rooter’s Day is a real Provincetown experience,” said artist Chris Sousa. “I never miss it, even the year it was 10 below.” Attendees bring items or notes on papers of thoughts, experiences, behaviors or other bad things from the past year they want to bid adieu. They place these items in a boat with a Christmas tree inside. The tree and the items, all non-toxic, are set afire and pushed out into Provincetown Harbor. Like an Alice-in Wonderland tour guide, Critchley leads the crowd in reciting nonsensical poems and songs, while dressed in outrageous outfits crafted from found objects and other eccentric items. Inevitably, cars driving by stop to watch with puzzlement and wonder at the crowd assembled in the cold trying to light a boat on fire. Revelers then assemble at Critchley’s equally eccentric home for cider and goodies and to talk about the year to come. The event does have an air of secrecy to it. And those who celebrate the day like it that way. If you stumble upon the celebration, so be it. But the only invitations sent out to this holiday tradition come in the form of a whisper on Commercial Street." - from the wicked local

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