Holidays

I grow increasingly oblivious to holidays. It’s hard to miss some of them–Christmas for instance–since there are signs of them everywhere. I look out my office window and see the massive (but nonetheless fake) Christmas tree in the mall food court below. There are lights hanging all around, and of course, Santa Claus and his Personal Digital Photographers are about (although, returning from the gym this morning, there was a sign on Santa’s chair that said he was off feeding his reindeer and that he’d be back soon).

It’s much easier to miss others–Hanukkha and Easter are two that are easy for me to miss. If it wasn’t for reminders from rubysnina and others yesterday, I probably would have forgotten about Hanukkah completely. I’m the same way with Easter. Of course, unlike Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day, Hanukkah and Easter are based on the lunar calendar and therefore don’t fall on the same day of the year, year-in and year-out. Like Easter, the first night of Hanukkah can fluctuate quite a bit, coming as early as November 28, as it will in 2013, or as late as December 26, as it did in 2005. I blame the lunar calendar for my forgetfulness.

But the truth is, as I get older, holidays mean less to me in terms of celebrations and more as days off work. We get all kinds of holidays off that we really have no business getting off, if you ask me. Take President’s Day. We get that day off. I’m not sure I see the purpose. President’s Day was originally designed to honor two of our Presidents, Washington and Lincoln. Later, the rest were thrown into the mix as an afterthought, I guess. Strangely, we don’t get Mothers or Fathers Day off. And yet, our mother and father tend to have a much greater impact on our lives than any President. This is surprising since the Fifth Commandment says “Honor thy mother and father” (this might be the fourth commandment if you are Roman Catholic). Nowhere does the Bible say “Honor thy President”. I checked. And yet, we honor our Presidents with a day off of work and not our parents.

Some holidays seems silly to me. New Year’s Day, for instance. Why do we need a day off work to celebrate a new year? Besides, for thousands of years of human history, the “new year” began in the spring, with the planting of crops. It wasn’t until just before the Christian era that New Year’s day was moved to January first (thanks to the Romans).

We get time off work for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Television news programs and newspapers are always showing pictures of aging veterans gathered to remember their fallen brothers and sisters. I never seem to run into these people. Most people I know look at Memorial Day and Veterans Day as three-day weekends, time for quick getaways or sleeping in. There is a degree of nobility to the sentiment of these days, but if you ask me, the men and women who have died in service of their country would not want their loved ones gloomily ruminating over what might have been. The best “thank you” these men and women could get for their sacrifice is for their friends and loved ones to take advantage of their defended freedoms, be that by putting in an honest day of work, or spending a three-day weekend in the Bahamas.

We get time off for Labor Day, an ironic name for a holiday designed to give the working man a day without labor. Then there’s Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving (where we are thankful for having a day off dedicated entirely to shopping). Colonial Pilgrims are rolling over in their graves!

It’s hard to forget holidays like Christmas, or Independence Day, both of which I enjoy for purely secular reasons. Most other holidays, however, fall below my radar, I’m afraid. And when they do come to my attention, I grow highly suspect of their value. When you are too arbitrary with your holiday designations, they begin to lose their meaning as a holiday and instead become nothing more than a day off to plan a three-day weekend. Still, the official holidays that we have here in the U.S., numerous though they seem, are nothing compared to the vast array of holidays they have in other parts of the world, Europe, for instance. European countries have been established much longer than the U.S. and have had more time to build up the traditions that surround their holidays. Does that mean as time goes on, we’ll be adding to our collection of days off work?

Forgetting holidays has its downside and you can guess what that is. It is the social equivalent of forgetting an birthday or anniversary. It is virtually impossible (for me, anyway) to keep track of which holidays are important to which of my friends and family. Still, there is always the lingering feeling of guilt when I forget a holiday that it seems I shouldn’t have forgotten, regardless of how oblivious I am or how dubious the holiday seems to me. More often than not, holidays serve as markers to more important occasions. Several of my friends have birthdays around Christmas, for instance. Mothers Day serves as a reminder that Mothers Birthday is a few weeks away.

My favorite month of the year is August. Aside from it being the heart of summer, there are no holidays in August to distract me. Doesn’t that seem strange. Every other month of the year has some significant holiday (they may not all be worthy of time off, but they are still considered significant). But not August. Someone should look into that.

Let me close what I suspect will be a controversial post by saying Happy Hanukkah to all those who celebrate it. I’m sorry it fell below my radar. I guess that’s what happens when you schedule a holiday on the phases of the moon. 🙂