All Those Messy Holidays

Holidays can be rough. Take today. Not all dads are awesome. Not all dads are here. Not all dads look like dads. I mean, what is a dad exactly? Okay, that’s not really where I wanted to go with this.

What holiday is rough for you? I’m a mom and like being wished a Happy Mother’s Day, but seeing pictures of people posing with their moms reminds me of all the lost conversations and experiences with my own mom. Obviously, I’m not alone in this.

But you might associate a certain holiday with loss and heartbreak or violence and fear. And on these days you might avoid (understandably so) memory-holding spaces and social media with its onslaught of other people having a wonderful time.

Some holidays are fraught with hypocrisy (Independence for some of us Day !) and historical misrepresentation or trauma (looking at you Thanksgiving) and bias (Christmas versus Eid?)

We can cue the laments of commercialization (what’s the reason for the season?) and the outrage at the timing (you’re decorating before I feel it is appropriate!) and disapproval (Satan!).

Then there are birthdays. I wished someone a happy birthday, and she said, “If you ever wish me a happy birthday, I’ll never talk to you again.” Okaaay. Point taken. Some people do not like birthdays. Other people don’t like how other people celebrate their birthdays (a birthday week? month? what?). There is the hassle of pitching in a few bucks for birthdays at the office and the peer pressure to eat dry cake with sickly sweet frosting. Never mind the discomfort of people singing the birthday song at you. (That’s not awkward at all!)

Many of us feel obligated to spend money we don’t have, give gifts people don’t want, and visit with people we don’t like because we’re related one way or another. (Yes, yes, I know not all people.)

There are religions that don’t celebrate any holidays. And there are places that celebrate only holidays that honor God.

Why do we even have holidays?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a life without holidays. No sparkling lights, no pretty baubles, no special foods, no old songs, no picnics, no parades, no stories handed down, no gatherings of family or found family, no whatever else you imagine makes a holiday. (Yes, some of those things can happen without holidays, but how often would you step out of the daily grind of life if the calendar didn’t make you? And if you do, does it then become a holiday?)

I want a world with Juneteenth (also today!) and Day of the Dead.

Humans seem hardwired to want celebrations and holidays. I have nothing new to add to that conversation. Plenty of other people have studied and discussed why we do.

Holidays are messy things. They can be criticized. They can be changed and even tossed aside. (Some should be tossed aside immediately.) Many should probably be better understood.

Holidays are infuriating. They are delightful. We will love them and hate them. I don’t think it can be any other way.

What holiday do you look forward to? What holiday do you dread? What holiday should we have but don’t?


Happy Holiday! Thanks for reading.

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