Home2022-01-14T14:56:57-05:00

Reinventing the Holidays

National Holidays make complete and perfect sense if you grew up with them, and no sense at all if you didn’t. It’s difficult for anyone not brought up in America to get excited about Thanksgiving, for example, and Americans find it hard to work up much enthusiasm for Bastille Day in France, Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, or the Foundation of the Workers’ Party Day in North Korea.

These special days make a tremendous impression on us in childhood. Everyone around us takes them so seriously that the public holidays seem like part of the fabric of the universe itself. They march us through the year as relentlessly as the seasons: Martin Luther King Day, President’s day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving – all commemorating some more or less mythical part of the national history. On these days we celebrate ourselves, and people like us.

But, for most people like us, it’s not the history lesson that counts but the extra day off. With the notable exception of Thanksgiving, these days are observed on Mondays regardless of the exact date they are meant to commemorate. This convenient fiction gives us a much-needed long weekend. The cunning placement of Thanksgiving on a Thursday allows us to steal four whole days. This adds up to seven official secular holidays a year, or eight if we include Christmas, which has become a kind of non-denominational winter solstice shopping ritual.

It’s not enough. If we have learned anything from the Covid fiasco it is that working people really need a break. Other nations have many more holidays. Russia has nine, France has thirteen and Japan has seventeen, not even counting religious festivals. Only Albania has fewer national holidays than the USA. As the world’s only superpower, we should surely have more long weekends than anyone else.

This is a political matter. Only Congress can declare National Holidays and they have fallen down on the job. We need at least – at the very least – one three day weekend per month.  There’s a big gap in March and April, and nothing at all in June or in August. A few more long weekends would be good for our health and good for the tourist industry. It’s almost impossible to take a real break in two days.

We can’t even call some festivals by their proper names any more. Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa are all lumped together under the meaningless title of “The Holidays,” so that nobody can possibly be offended by the suggestion that their particular celebration is not the most important day on the calendar. We don’t worry about the conservative sensibilities that may be bruised by Labor Day, for example, or about the feelings of British people on the Fourth of July.

We can’t change or move the religious festivals, too many delicate sensibilities are involved. But, if religious holidays are taboo, secular holidays can certainly be created. There are already plenty of special days that should be holidays but aren’t – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day are obvious choices. Tax day, April 15 should certainly be a National Holiday, we deserve it, and the holiday deficit in August could be nicely filled by upgrading National Relaxation Day, which falls on August 15. We deserve that too.

A few brand new holidays would also be refreshing, and I think that these should celebrate the genius of science and technology – the inventions that make life in the twenty-first century so much better than it ever was before. What about Central Heating Day, FM Radio Day, Personal Computer Day (perhaps not), Medical Anesthesia Day, Dishwasher Day, Prozac Day? If all these days are made into official national holidays, this will give us thirteen long weekends in the year. It’s still not enough, but it would be an improvement.

David Bouchier

“I never yet saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument.”

Thomas Jefferson

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