Rainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities, held annually in various locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Europe. These gatherings seek to encourage the practice of ideals of peace, love, respect, harmony, freedom and community, and seek to serve as an alternative to consumerism, capitalism, and mass media. They are strongly associated with counterculture and the hippie subculture.
Environmental impact and crime are difficulties associated with Rainbow Gatherings, and has resulted in strained relations between Rainbow Gathering participants and local communities. Media coverage is often unfavorable, focusing on drug use, nudity, assaults, fugitives, serious traffic charges such as drunken driving and the countercultural aspects of the assemblage. Nevertheless, the Gatherings have proven a durable and international phenomenon for over 40 years.
Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually abbreviated to "Rainbow Family") claim to express utopian impulses, bohemianism, hipster and hippie culture. The gatherings have roots clearly traceable to the counterculture of the 1960s.
Rainbow Gatherings have their own jargon, which helps to create a sense of community and express their thoughts on society and social justice. In particular, mainstream society is commonly referred to and viewed as "Babylon", a term from the Christian New Testament connoting the participants' widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy, unsustainable, exploitative and out of harmony with the natural systems of the planet.
The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 through 7 every year on National Forest land.Throughout the year, regional and international gatherings are held in the United States and in many other places around the world.
The first Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, a four-day event in Colorado in the United States in July 1972, was organized by youth counterculture "tribes" based in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Twenty thousand people faced police roadblocks, threatened civil disobedience, and were allowed onto National Forest land. This was intended to be a one-time event; however, a second gathering in Wyoming the following year materialized, at which point an annual event was declared. The length of the gatherings has since expanded beyond the original four-day span, as have the number and frequency of the gatherings.
Although groups from California and the Northwest region of the U.S. were heavily involved in the first Rainbow Gathering, the U.S. Southeast was strongly represented as well. At least 2,600 people from throughout that region attended and provided support for the 1972 Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes on Strawberry Lake, above Granby, Colorado. There was also strong representation from other regions of the U.S.