Amid much pearl clutching by co-workers that I was <gasp> not spending Thanksgiving with my family, it got me thinking about how not all holidays are created equal. In New Jersey, we celebrate twelve state holidays, and because one of those days is not the day after Thanksgiving, I needed something to do. So here is my, in ascending order of importance, ranking of state holidays:
Are You Fucking Kidding Me
12. Columbus Day: Yes, let us celebrate a man who never set foot in our country, because … Italian, or something.
11. Good Friday: No offense to Christians, but Good Friday isn’t even a recognized federal holiday. If FOX News wanted to beat its breast about a “war” on religion, one would think this would be a more natural field of battle than Christmas (about which, more below). After all, Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of your lord and savior and yet, people go about their business like any other ordinary lead in to the weekend.
10. Presidents Day: You would think a holiday that celebrates our two most important (if not greatest) Presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, would be higher on the list; you would be wrong. First, there used to be two holidays for these political giants (and rightly so). Downsizing them into one immediately diminished the importance of both. Plus, it’s stuck in the middle of February and feels more like justification for retailers to sell off all their leftover winter stock. Fifty years from now, do not be at all surprised if this becomes a catch-all day to celebrate every great/near great Presidents.
You Were Saying Something About “Best Intentions?”
9. Election Day: Another one that is not a federal holiday, but at least there’s a good civic duty vibe to it. That we “humblebrag” a 55-60% voter rate in Presidential elections (if only to mask the 35-40% participation rate in off-year elections) is pretty sad. Less shop-y, more vote-y, people.
8. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: The newest member of the group, this holiday recognizes the enormous contribution one man provided to our nation. While some have picked up on this meme to encourage a “day of service” (volunteerism), most people pencil this one in as a gift three-day weekend hot on the heels of New Year’s.
7. Veterans Day: Few people realize this holiday was originally created to honor those who fought in World War I (hence, November 11 (a/k/a Armistice Day) and these days, even fewer care. Like all things American, we’ve reduced honoring military service to its lowest common denominator – a flag pin, ribbon and TV interrupting regularly scheduled programming for the 60 seconds it takes the President to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Mix in some solemn music and holiday shopping and voilà, you have baked the perfect nothing burger of commemoration.
Summer, In Three Parts
6. Labor Day: You made it through three months of sweating through your clothes, dodging West Nile virus, doing Jäger bombs down the Shore and time with your kids? Congratulations! Here’s a three day weekend in the beginning of September as your reward. Just don’t wear anything white the day after or the fashion police will arrest you. While you’re at it, ignore the sacrifice of workers in the 19th century who toiled in borderline indentured servitude so you could save 25% at Lord & Taylor.
5. Memorial Day: Another honking excuse to take a long weekend (see a theme here?) that has been stripped entirely of its original meaning (honoring our military dead) and repurposed into the “unofficial kick off to Summer.” And really, who doesn’t love summer? Also, shopping. Civic duties include consuming large quantities of dead animal flesh (BBQ), imbibing copious amounts of alcohol and getting sun burned (weather permitting). If you have some extra time, put the flag out on your stoop.
4. Fourth of July: Nothing screams U-S-A U-S-A quite like blowing shit up. I was tempted to downgrade Independence Day if only because we sometimes have to suffer through those years where it lands on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday (nothing kills holiday buzz quite like having to work the next day and/or burn a leave day to capture the full impact of a holiday weekend) but hey, the Fourth gives us a great opportunity to bask in a (mostly) unironic celebration of the fact that our democracy, balky as it is sometimes, still kicks the ass of every other form of government in the world. It also marries the best components of its bookend brethren (parties, gorging on food and drinking) while offering the bonus of another eight weeks of summer.
The Secular Saints
3. New Year’s Day: Ah, the New Year. It’s like a meta enema for the world. All that bad stuff that happened in the year that just ended is miraculously flushed out of our collective bowel. If hope springs eternal, its Garden of Eden is January 1st. Forever memorialized as the holiday where you have the revelation that your “Sally” is out there, so you must run, post haste, to let her know she is the one you want to think about first thing in the morning and last thing at night, for the rest of your life (or until you get divorced, YMMV). Also, a perfect excuse to get really dressed up, be overcharged for dinner and/or partying and then spend the next day bitching about how you were overcharged for dinner and/or partying.
2. Thanksgiving: If society did not create it, Madison Avenue would have invented it. Apocryphal story of Pilgrims and Native Americans (né Indians) who looked past their cultural differences to share a feast right before the former spent the next two centuries extinguishing the latter. Good times. Now, mostly an opportunity to watch movies and television premised on the idea that beneath the contempt family members feel for one another is a thin reservoir of love, binge eat and drink, yell about politics with that crazy uncle who does nothing but listen to Rush and Hannity, and prepare for a long weekend of discount shopping that now begins the night of Thanksgiving as opposed to the ass crack of dawn the morning after.
Our True National Holiday
1. Christmas: The next time you see one of those “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers or hear some blow hard on TV complain about the “War on Christmas,” consider that December 25th is the only day of the year where everything shuts down (after an entire month has been spent with a massive lead in to that day). I mean, everything (except 7-11 and some Chinese restaurants). A country founded on the separation of church and state selects as its one communal day the birthday of Jesus Christ. It also serves as yearly reinforcement of the other church altar we pray at – consumerism. Pretty much win/win if you were sketching it in a boardroom.
Happy Holidays err … Merry Christmas!