One of the main characteristics of a Rainbow Gathering is the twice-daily food circle. “Food circle!” is called out across the camp — first from the kitchen, and then it’s repeated down the line wherever people are gathered. After the third call (“Food circle NOW!”), we all congregate together around a circle of rocks and a centre fire to share together in the food prepared by the communal kitchen.

Gathering around the main circle for dinner, November 2011
Twice a day, the Rainbow Family gathers around the main fire circle for a shared meal prepared in the communal kitchen.

Holding hands in a circle, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
We hold hands and sing together in a special time of unity and gratefulness to express thanks for the food and for our Rainbow Family.

We are circling, circling together
We are singing, singing our heart-song
This is family, this is unity
This is celebration, this is sacred.

Waiting for our meal, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
Then we sit on our blanket and wait for the meal to be served.

Spraying our hands with teatree, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
Before each meal, someone comes around and sprays our hands with a teatree solution so we eat with clean hands. This spray is also used in the kitchen before any food is touched, and the practice has drastically improved the hygiene of communal food.

Preparing to serve the meal, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
Servers come together and bless the food before going around the circle to serve each person individually.

Dancing around the fire, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
When the meal is finished, people play music and sing while others dance by the light of the centre fire.

Circling is symbolic of the non-hierarchical Rainbow Gathering — everyone comes together as an equal, can contribute if they’re interested and decisions are made by consensus. Coming together in a circle for meals is a lovely ritual — new to us, and our girls have been quick to incorporate it into their games.