Sandus’s prime focus has long been on culture, and a culture reflecting its philosophical rationale at that. It has long had celebrations for its Socialist leanings, like celebrating the National Day of Socialism on 7 November or Labour Day on 1 May, and for its social liberalism and progressivism, such as this week’s celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Week. Its holidays come in a variety of different flavours, such as the more cultural Sancta holidays to the rather political and activist “days of recongition.” But apart from a few holiday traditions—the cleaning and lights on the Armilustrium, the little clay knick-knacks (more properly, the sigillaria) for the Saturnalia, or the early-morning/late-night viewing of the parade on Red Square for Remembrance Day—few ceremonies and celebrations have been considered for momentous occasions in an individual’s life. For example, Sandus has never, like St.Charlie, had an occasion like a wedding.
Until now. Recent conversations between the Party Secretary and the Sôgmô have focused on filling this gap in Sandus’s cultural repertoire. Of things to consider, the Sôgmô has focused on everything that runs the gamut from birth to adulthood, such as civil baptism or name-giving ceremonies to weddings and even to house-moving parties. Inspired by former East German traditions like the Socialist wedding (Sozialistische Eheschließung), the naming ceremony (Namensweihe, also similar to a baptême républicain), or the youth celebration (Jugendweihe) still celebrated today by German youth as “Jugendfeier,” the Sôgmô has started to consider similar ceremonies and traditions that Sandum citizens can use as alternatives or duplicates to other macronational ceremonies. Here are a few major ceremonies in the course of one’s [Sandum] life:
- Naming Ceremony: Are you having a baby and want to raise them up in Sandus? Skip the gender reveal fad and have reveal their name instead. At a Sandum naming ceremony, a Sandum official gives a solemn speech and the parents and other guardians (or godparents) solemnly swear or affirm that they will protect and increase the child. The child may then receive a Sandum name and become a Sandum national, though they cannot become a Sandum citizen until the age of majority.
- Citizenship Ceremony: This coming of age ceremony happens anytime after the age of 14 for Sandum nationals (i.e., those born into Sandus) or for those who are being naturalised as full citizens (cives) and wish to celebrate it. The ceremony may be as elaborate as one wishes, but in its simplest form it is celebrated by swearing or affirming the oath of citizenship.
- Graduation: Academic achievements are very important in Sandus, a country where more than half of the population is pursuing or has received a college degree. This ceremony is celebrated as one normally celebrates graduation, but with the added benefit of receiving either membership or a promotion in the Honourable Order of Athena Pronoea.
- Commitment Ceremony: Have a white dress? Add some blue—or some of the other national colours! A Sandum commitment ceremony is the counterpart to the white and regalia of a wedding, and it is a ceremony that officially promulgates a wedding in Sandus. At a Sandum commitment ceremony, a Sandum official gives a solemn speech on the values of marriage, a home, and a shared life in common, and the spouses are welcome to wear whatever they please—though a deep red is recommended (for good luck and love). A commitment ceremony is not necessarily an alternative to a religious or macronational wedding, but it is the ceremony at which Sandum citizens are officially recognised as “married” in the State. It can, like in the St.Charlian example, take place long before any other wedding.
There are expected to be no alternatives to funerals, though one may proudly incorporate their Sandum identity into a funeral.
Of course, these ceremonies can be customised as one wishes, but the important role is to keep these ceremonies as a tradition. The most important element to a Sandum ceremony, however, is to reaffirm the civic values and national philosophy of Sandus.
Up Close: An Image of a Sandum Commitment Ceremony
One way to encourage these alternative ceremonies is, of course, to have examples—either of real events or of ideas for one. Here, let us offer one such example: the Sôgmô’s commitment ceremony.
On a brisk autumn afternoon, during the weekend the royal couple have decided to get married, það and the Sanôba Consort gather together between their wedding ceremony and the dinner in a quiet room in the University of Michigan’s Rackham Building. Both wearing dark blue with white accents, they are joined by a select group of their chosen family who act as witnesses of the ceremony. The Sôgmô’s doktormutter and the Sanôba Consort’s adviser jointly preside over the ceremony, speaking of the times they met one another and both jointly make speeches on the value of sharing one’s house. Þess doktormutter, even, gives a speech in Latin known as a commendatio which finishes as an ovatio.
Finally, at an appointed time considered auspicious, the officiants ask the royal couple if their love is ingenuous and true. When both have answered “yes,” both role models ask the royal couple to exchange vows made specifically for the ceremony that evoke Sandus’s national philosophy. Both may exchange an item, like a gold ring, or they might decide to exchange some other object important to them, like a blue feather. Finally, before the couple are presented to the selected witnesses, the royal couple signs a formal Sandum marriage contract, thereby formally uniting their houses together as a couple in Sandus.
Focus!: A Digression on Sandum Home Altars
In Sandum history, altars have long been an important part of our physical and material cultural expression. In the Office of the Sôgmô at the Palace of State, there were once two altars (since decommissioned), Buddhist and Pagan. The National Buddhist Altar, as it was called, was created in the country’s early history—in 2009—and was renovated in June 2015; the State Polytheist Shrine was dedicated in September 2012. Both were the site of many religious rituals, including the joint focus (with the National Buddhist Altar) of a religious ceremony officiated jointly by the Sôgmô and King Adam I of Überstadt during his state visit in July 2014. An altar for us, however, need not be dedicated to a deity, but is rather a non-profane space where one can present the elements of their philosophy or the most sincere parts of their culture.
This is, in fact, better known perhaps as a focus. The Latin term was originally the term for the hearth or fireplace and, in time, it became a poetic synonym for the family and household. The hearth was the location where many Greek and Roman families would worship domestic gods, such as Hestia or the Lares. The English term, of course, means the centre of one thing, the poignant mental direction or intention of a person, or a central point (such as where light rays merge). The importance here is not the religious attitude of many altars, since many Sandum citizens are not religiously inclined or are atheists, but rather the quality of the space. In a spatial sense, Sandum foci are important as “sacred” space (i.e., not profane), or space which is set apart for reflection, thinking, meditation, and even prayer (if an altar or focus is religious). So, for example, a Sandum focus could also be a shelf of a book shelf where only one’s most important and cherished books are kept and shown off.
Many Sandum citizens already keep altars. The Sôgmô still keeps a Buddhist altar, which has not yet been commissioned as a formal Sandum altar, and það is working on another polytheist altar. Both the Party Secretary and the Facilitator of the Council maintain altars, and frequently pray at them. Several other citizens have altars, as well. In the future, we hope to detail more of such altars or foci, and to encourage more Sandum citizens to own and maintain foci—regardless of their religion or religiosity.
Do Sandum ceremonies replace other ones?
Not necessarily, though they can—and it would represent the meaningfulness and importance of one’s Sandum citizenship if they did. Some Sandum ceremonies could certainly coincide with macronational ceremonies, such as graduation parties, but others represent a slight departure from other macronational ceremonies or from religious ceremonies, such as the Sandum naming ceremony versus a religious baptism. But it need not be an “either-or” decision. One could certainly have duplicate ceremonies—one micronational (Sandum), one macronational or religious—as was the case with the example of þess commitment ceremony. An obvious exception, however, would be the citizenship ceremony. Lest one of us emigrates to a new country, it seems unlikely that many of us will have a citizenship ceremony, though Sandum laws forbid birthright full citizenship.
(Sandum nationals have to become citizens through a process like everyone else. This is to avoid the growth of excessive nationalism.)
Finally, the list above is by no means conclusive. It and all the information in this brief discussion are a single template, but this work of consideration is a wake-up call and a manifesto for Sandum citizens to think of new ways to incorporate ceremony and sacred space, even in secular and non-religious ways, into our lives. Doing so can make our lives more rewarding and make us all happier.