Some Holidays More Appreciated Than Others

HolidaysLast week, with the holiday falling on a Friday, was great. In fact, maybe we should rethink this whole Monday holiday thing and change them all to Fridays. You still get the long weekend, and you’ll be so pooped from traveling, picnicking or whatever that you’ll be ready to get back to work first thing on Monday. Starting your work week on Tuesday means wasting a lot of time worrying about how far in the hole you already are.Anyway, I thought celebrating the Fourth on Friday was pretty cool. On Friday, I kept thinking it was Saturday and Saturday seemed like Sunday (except for the church part) and the extra day truly seemed like a bonus. I know it was psychological, but what isn’t? It also got me thinking about holidays in general and why we have so many but think about so few. The Fourth of July is really the only one that goes by its date. Yes, I know about Cinco de Mayo, but nobody gets that day off and it’s not even in English. Another date-specific holiday is January First, but we know that as New Year’s Day.The Fourth of July, which some have tried to call Independence Day, could have been any day, but the Founding Fathers finally got around to adopting the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and by the time the word got around to the colonies, the month was half gone. The first legitimate Fourth of July celebration, as recognized by historians, was in Williamsburg, VA, on July 25. They weren’t able to scrounge up any fireworks on short notice, so they blasted off some cannons—one boom for each of the 13 colonies. Word is that the holiday traffic in and away from the shore in 1776 was horrible. Those British soldiers wouldn’t get off the road.This gives you a pretty good idea of how we came to celebrate this holiday and how loud things with the potential for blasting off human body parts became part of the equation. Red was for the bleeding, white for the attire of the doctors and nurses and blue for the Blue Cross plan necessary to pay the emergency room tab. If you don’t believe that’s how we came up with those colors, ask Betsy Ross.If you are like me, you probably have a hard time remembering the actual date on which holidays fall, which is why the Fourth of July is so handy. Thanksgiving is a pain, because you know it is on a Thursday, but you are never sure if it is the last one of the month or the next to last. Easter is even worse, because you need a PhD, a calculator and a knowledge of the lunar cycles to figure that one out. I can tell you it is on a Sunday, but it can be in March or as late as the end of April. Most of us accept what it says on the calendar, as long as it is the current year, of course.The ultimate eating holiday is Thanksgiving. Most of our big holidays we celebrate by eating, but Thanksgiving is actually a commemoration of a real feast. Cable still hadn’t been hooked up so there were no football games to watch on the first Thanksgiving. The underlying purpose of the holiday is to determine which family member is the most successful, or, in some instances, most deeply in debt, because that is the place the rest of the ne’er-do-wells in the family go to eat. Mostly, it is an excuse to overeat and then go shopping, though not necessarily at the same time. Canada has its own Thanksgiving, also in November but earlier in the month. You could call it the traitors’ feast because it was Loyalists who left America for Canada as the revolution heated up who supposedly initiated Thanksgiving there.Looking at other major holidays, we regard Memorial Day as the start of summer and Labor Day as its terminus. Labor Day honors a concept all but lost in contemporary America—hard work—and was originally a tribute to labor unions. Since the latter were dedicated to shorter hours, longer vacations and greater pay, it would be more fitting to call it Leisure Day.St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th and is basically an excuse to party. It is religious in origin, being named after a saint whose greatest accomplishment, driving the snakes out of Ireland, was something he probably never did. Since they are only a couple of weeks apart, they should have combined St. Patrick’s Day with April Fool’s Day. April 1 is not really a holiday, and since it is engaged in mostly by pranksters, its success depends on the rest of us not paying much attention to it. St. Pat’s snake trick may have been the best April Fool’s ruse of them all. It got him his own day.Then there are President’s Day—an excuse for a Monday holiday in bleak February—and another February observance, Groundhog Day, which addresses one of the most talked about American topics, the weather, and has turned a woodchuck into a meteorologist to do it. The shadow knows, you might say, and Punxsutawney Phil’s annual prognoses tend to be more accurate than those who rely on science.Halloween is cool because it promotes widespread fear in our neighborhoods, as well as the celebration of greed for unhealthy snacks, which, if unfulfilled, could result in the imminent destruction of property. Trick or treat has been lost to political correctness, with safety concerns stifling nocturnal visitations.Valentine’s Day may be the most popular that doesn’t rely on a day off. On the other hand, Sweetest Day (third Saturday in October) flopped as a national holiday even though it has been observed since 1922. It, like Valentine’s Day, celebrates love and friendship with candy, cards and gifts, but perhaps one day a year of sweets for the sweet is enough.I’m at a loss to explain the need for many of the other holidays, even if some result in a Monday off for some of us. Columbus Day is the obvious example. This guy didn’t discover anything. How can you discover a country already populated by people? At least Thanksgiving offers cursory appreciation of native Americans who made it possible for the Pilgrims to survive that first horrendous winter. The thanks they got for their hospitality was being expelled from their territories and picking up some of those nasty European diseases.There are days for bosses, secretaries, people who bring their kids to work or ride their bicycles to the job and a day for “buying nothing,” a protest against consumerism. Buy Nothing Day this year falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the day after Black Friday—the ultimate tribute to consumerism. It seems to me that if you spent everything on Friday, wreaking havoc on your credit limit, you wouldn’t be able to buy anything on Saturday anyway,We may have too many holidays, but every once in a while one makes sense.

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