We are in the “holiday season” now which the Grinch-ier among us might call the “Shopping Season” and those looking for a fight over the last few years might call, “The Season of the War on Christmas.” ‘Tis true that this season began with a fiery national debate over what a paper Christmas coffee cup should look like.
There are things about other holidays we might question as well. So here’s a totally arbitrary list of some of those dates we have come to regard as “national holidays” and what they bring to our lives. Maybe this will help us focus on possible new meanings for the season arriving now. My apologies in advance for not including days from every faith in this; I like to think that, in our hearts, all faiths are celebrated when we invoke things like the idea of America or the hope and joy of any given “season.”
TimeandDate.com lists 225 American holidays (I’m not certain their employees get all of those days off) so I’ll try and stick to better known holidays, such as…
Jan. 13: Stephen Foster Memorial Day. “You still go to work this day, Doo dah, Doo dah…”
Feb. 2: Groundhog Day. Six more weeks of VISA charges from Christmas.
Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day. Where do the lonely get their candy and roses?
Feb. 19: Chinese New Year. 2016 will be The Year of the Monkey. Damn! Trump gets nominated!
Mar 17: St. Patrick’s Day. And you’re still hung over from Chinese New Year.
Mar. 31: Cesar Chavez Day. Take a moment to tell your kids who he was and why he matters.
Apr 5: Easter. Winner, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.
Apr. 15: Tax Day. Would a nice peanut butter egg make you feel better?
Apr. 21: National Library Worker’s Day. Let’s change this one to “Please Keep Libraries Open Day.”
Apr. 23: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Unless you’re a laid-off library worker.
Apr. 24: Arbor Day. One day a year, developers pause in cutting down trees to build condos.
Apr. 27: Confederate Memorial Day. Good luck raising that flag in your front yard.
May 4: Kent State Shootings Remembrance Day. Again, take a moment and tell your kids…
May 5: Cinco de Mayo. Which has also become “Cinco de Beer Promotions.”
May 7: National Day of Prayer. See “Year of the Monkey, Trump Nominated.”
May 25: Memorial Day.
On Veteran’s Day this year, public television ran a superbly made, multi-generational documentary on soldiers with PTSD, “Searching for Home: Coming Back From The War.”
Our household watched this searing accounting of the price paid in sending men and women off to war. I would not say that’s how we “celebrated”; we watched to understand something we’ve all got to get into our heads, which is that war doesn’t work. Period.
We’re going to be riding around in self-driving cars and still sending our best off to be killed, handicapped, and mutilated on scorched landscapes right out of the Crusades? It’s not enough to mourn what has already happened. Honoring our veterans must evolve into a learning process that stops the madness. Our madness.
Okay, I’ll get to Christmas and all that, but …
June 19: Juneteenth and Emancipation Day. We can strive to be post-racial AND do more to know the meaning of this day. Holidays, after all, are about not forgetting.
July 4: Note to NRA – Guns and “freedom” are not the same thing.
Aug. 2: Senior Citizens Day. Boomers may reach a moment of critical mass moment where, by mere dint of discounts, they bring the movie business to its knees.
Sep. 7: Labor Day. $15 minimum wage, please.
And it’s here that we jump forward to the nadir of the present season: “Black Friday” has apparently become a national holiday. It’s a state holiday in 24 states. I can’t think of a worse “celebration” of humanity or our democracy than jamming retail outlets to save money because THEY told us to do that. Skip Black Friday and instead visit your one-of-a-kind local merchants. Buy art and hand-made items. Or simply don’t spend a dime on Black Friday. Stay home, make some gifts, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and then call a friend you intended to contact over the holidays last Christmas. They won’t be home, they’ll be at Best Buy, but leave a message all the same.
My own family imbibes with gusto the sweet ale that can be Christmas. Part of that is due to our never knocking ourselves out with any hypnotic commands from American retail. Not every gift item given is brand new and locked in a clamshell plastic bubble. Wrapping paper may have been recycled from a previous Christmas, in our nod to Arbor Day. Spending is not giving love. But I think, to some extent, we lose the words and substitute a gift for saying “I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re all still here. I’m glad there’s a holiday for this.” Use Black Friday to stay home and practice saying that to those you love.