by Lisa Bullard
Every year, thousands of bikers road trip to Sturgis (South Dakota) to celebrate their shared passion for motorcycles. For some of them, attendance is an eagerly anticipated annual tradition that holds the same power found in spiritual rituals.
One year my friend and I were caught unawares in the middle of the experience. We had traveled to South Dakota without knowing about the pilgrimage of believers, but as we came closer to our destination, the growing number of bikers, thick as plagues of locusts at gas stations, forced us to piece together the clues. It turned into one of the most illuminating of our many road trips together. After all, it’s not every day that outsiders such as us are allowed a glimpse into secret ceremonial rites involving fur-covered bras and leather chaps.
And we had good reason to know we had nothing to fear from the bikers, however oddly they were adorned: “Most of them are dentists in real life,” the local newspaper assured us.
Apparently even dentists love an excuse to leave the regular world behind and celebrate with their own kind. So I draw on that fact for one of my more reliable creative writing prompts—one that works even on those deadly just- before-vacation or just-back-from-break days when students are completely distracted.
Namely, I ask students to invent their own holiday. I ask them to write about the reason their holiday exists and the special traditions that surround it. When is their holiday? What foods are eaten? What costumes are worn? What rituals take place? Are gifts exchanged? Are there ﬁgures such as Santa Claus that play a prominent role?
Hopefully you’ll ﬁnd, as I have, that students really enjoy channeling their pre- or post-holiday energy into creating their own imagined visions for “the best celebration ever.”