This one’s from Plinky: “Which holiday would you rather skip? Why?”
Frankly – all of them. Holidays are like a disruption in the Force, a rift in the Time/Space Continuum – they rip you out of your ordinary life, force you to “celebrate” something that may or may not have deep meaning for you, then thrust you back into the workaday world, where you have to spend at least half a day trying to get back into the groove of whatever you were doing when you were so rudely interrupted.
Most of us humans are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time every day, perform various personal-hygiene and beautification tasks, feed ourselves in whatever manner we have established that works, and then get into the swing of whatever it is we do. This is one reason why retirement is so stressful: Both the retiree and whoever s/he lives with have to restructure their whole lives around the reality that both of them now share a space that didn’t used to be shared. Holidays are just one more stress in an already stressful world, and I would like to see them all go away.
That said, I’m not a Scrooge who thinks that people should keep their noses relentlessly to the grindstone, churning out profit for the Good of the Company (and by the way, yes, corporations are people. The purpose of a corporation is to establish a business as a legal entity, a legal “person,” so that it can continue once its principals have passed on. In addition, corporations are inevitably made up of flesh-and-blood human beings, so they are “people” in that sense, too. But I digress).
“Holidays” were established by belief systems as a means of setting aside an important aspect of faith, something that should hit you where you live, and therefore something that you should be able to take time to reflect upon. The very word is a blend of two words, “holy” and “day,” a holy day, a day set aside. The Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, predate anything Christian by centuries, if not millennia, and while I am no anthropologist, I’m sure that other religions around the world, all of them older than Christianity, also have their holy days.
Time set aside to reflect on an important matter, therefore, is a good thing, and far be it from me to deprive anyone of that time. That said, though: Take a look at how we actually use holidays. There are “traditional” Presidents’ Day auto sales, Memorial Day is the “traditional” start of the vacation season (and Labor Day its “traditional” end), some kind of football game has become “traditional” for Thanksgiving, and we won’t even get into the Christmas catastrophe (one of the funniest takes I’ve ever heard on this is available on YouTube. It’s called “The Christmas CanCan.” I’d post a link, but apparently you have to sit through ads on YouTube, now, and the one preceding this is particularly offensive to me).
Of all of these, only Labor Day was originally structured around a three-day weekend; Presidents’ Day used to be two days off, Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday. Memorial Day was always May 30, and involved special ceremonies, which had nothing to do with the start of summer vacation, to remember those fallen in wars. At one time, they all had an actual purpose; now, they are just an excuse to buy a car, or go skiing, or open or close the summer house. Where’s the reflection?
And that’s just in my own country. In Europe, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are all two-day holidays; but they are the three most important Christian holidays. What if you don’t think of yourself as a Christian any longer? Where’s the need to reflect?
What I would like to see is for every country to add up the total number of official holidays on its calendar, both civic and religious, and create a Holiday Pool. “Here’s a total of fifteen holidays,” for example. “They are all paid, and you can choose from among them to celebrate your own traditions in your own way, or to squander if you want to. The office will still be open, but you will not be penalized for the days you take off that are drawn from the Holiday Pool.” Then, to ensure that the work-work-work culture doesn’t get their hands on the Holiday Pool the way they have on people’s vacations, don’t pay overtime to people who work on holidays. Done. That way, people who couldn’t care less about National Occupy Day would have an extra day, or three, to put towards the holidays they really care about. And people who celebrate holy days at a different time of year – I’m thinking particularly of Russian Christmas, celebrated on January 7, or Orthodox Easter, usually celebrated anywhere from one to six weeks after everybody else’s – could take those days off without dipping into their vacation time.
And that way, maybe holidays will be celebrated as they were meant to be celebrated – as Time outside of Time, as days set apart for reflection, or at the very least, as days to be spent in the bosom of family and friends.