There’s this Huff Post piece floating around, as they tend to do, around Facebook and other social media outlets decrying the abundance of “fake” holidays and the people who make a fuss over “phone-it-in” holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. To her St. Patrick’s is a day just about wearing green and Easter is a day to get a pre-made Easter basket and maybe a new outfit.
I agree with Ms. Howerton to a point – in the days where family budgets and school budgets are constantly being tightened why are we celebrating these often meaningless days with special craft projects, take home projects, decorations and expectations? It’s one thing for a teacher to say, “It‘s Dr. Seuss’ birthday and we’re going to read “The Lorax” and another altogether to ask a student and/or parent to make elaborate truffela trees out of cardboard and imported silk. Okay, that last part might be a little bit of an exaggeration. However, it’s also wrong for our classrooms (whether they’re a public school or Sunday school) to be setting up children from different backgrounds and economic means to be expecting celebrations of things their parents probably don’t know about in ways that don’t fit their budget, or in the case of the ridiculous “holiday/celebration” candy and treats their nutritional expectations.
However, another thing struck me while reading Ms. Howerton’s post – none of the holidays she mentions directly or indirectly seem to have a real significance to her. No wonder she’s annoyed at them all and that’s where she misses the point.
It’s not about bringing down the holidays “a notch” – it’s about celebrating what is important to you, in ways that are meaningful and forgoing the rest. If this is followed then, yes, the Valentine’s Day treat bags would probably decrease, and the 100th Day “celebrations” would not require an extra hour of homework time at night and we could do whatever the heck we wanted to do for St. Patrick’s Day.
While I’m the first person to encourage everyone to take the commercialization out of their holidays (it’s an ADVENT calendar, not a Christmas Countdown and yes that Elf creeps me out) and I love finding ways to give on our holidays rather than receive, but I don’t expect everyone to quietly ring in their celebrations with a small, homemade desert around a candle lit table. Go big, have a hooley if you want to, but don’t do it because the Archbishop of Pinterest demands it, your students are bored with your lesson plan or because the neighbors are doing something that looks really cool. Celebrate your holidays in the ways that are special to you and your family, but make sure that there is a significance to it all or else, like Ms. Howerton surmises, it’s all pretty worthless.
There’s a reason all of these holidays are feeling overblown and insignificant at the same time – they’re not about anything and what does society at large fill an empty holiday with? Stuff. In fact a holiday used to be a cessation of normal activities. In order to celebrate something you got some time off to enjoy it. Now we don’t even do that – we pile on “holiday” projects on top of homework and ask people to work so that we can fill our holiday with, you guessed it, stuff. I can see where Ms. Howerton gets frustrated, there no deeper lesson to be learned or motive to reflect on in her holidays and because all of the deeper meaning of a holiday is gone and the break from normal activities is not respected all she’s left with is an abundance of meaningless stuff on top of an already busy and stuff filled life.
We are still human and we desire days of significance, days that are special, to mark the passage of time and draw us through the often dismal normalcy. It’s not about having fewer holidays or smaller holidays. It’s about having better holidays. It’s about having real holidays. It’s about giving ourselves an allowance to not go all out for a day that has no meaning to us and to go all out on the days that do no matter what box of goodies is being marketed at us. It’s about giving ourselves a day off from all the rest. It’s about celebrating things that give our lives more meaning instead of more stuff. It’s about having the right number of meaningful days so you don’t need three hundred and sixty five slightly meaningful or meaningless days that try to fill the void.
So stand up for your big shindigs and quiet dinners and go small with the Valentines and seriously question your children’s teacher when she sends home yet another “holiday” project that your kids probably don’t care about at all. Stand up for fewer day, more days, bigger days and small days. Stand up for better days.