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Monday, November 12, 2012

Holidays- Meanings & Myths

~ World War I soldier celebrating Nov 11th- Armistice Day

We as Americans are very energetic, industrious people who do not take short cuts but instead work hard at our crafts and trades, usually with a singular focus of being the best at what we do.

When it comes to holidays however, we have a historical tendency in both official capacity and as a populace to take shortcuts and in many instances, completely ignore the purpose altogether by molding the holiday's intent to fit our wishes.

For example when Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday was officially made a national holiday in the early 1980s, the government decided it was no longer necessary to honor the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln separately, so they got squished into the generalized 'President's Day'.
Our two holidays to honor those in the armed service-- Memorial Day and Veterans' Day were never originally intended to pay homage to ALL service people of ALL generations.  As we will demonstrate a little later, they were Specific days with Specific names to honor the memories of soldiers of Specific wars...

But our leaders seem to love war so much, if we made a specific holiday to honor the soldiers of every military engagement, we as a nation would probably have more "holidays" per calendar year than non-holidays.

So we thought we'd very concisely break down each important holiday currently on the calendar year, briefly explain its purpose and/or how it should be celebrated and then contrast as need be how we as a nation actually do.

We may seem at times cynical in this demonstration but we're not... we promise.   We just look at holidays with more of an ideological purity and less as an opportunity for people to party and buy things on sale.
New Year's Eve (midnight January 1st) --  Of all holidays celebrated during a calendar year, this one is probably the closest to people treating it correct to its intent.  It has a singular purpose-- a means to cheer on the coming of the new year with hopes things will be better and thus celebrate with dance, drink and merriment.

Martin Luther King's Birthday (officially the 3rd Monday in January) --  In 2013, it will be 'celebrated' on Jan 21st though his real birthday was Jan 15th.  Only in a national holiday can you get away with belatedly celebrating one's birth 6 days after the fact.

But we know MLK Day isn't just about King's birth but about his life and legacy..

So how is the day honored?   No school, no mail, banks closed and some good sales at the local mall, especially the Christmas merchandise and calendars which are usually available at 75% off by this point.

And really not much else occurs.
St Valentine's Day  (February 14th) -- The original "St. Valentine" was a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church.

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome who was a priest in Rome and was martyred about AD 269, and Valentine of Terni who became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian.

No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the 14th century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

Of course this truth isn't helpful when it comes to stimulating the economy via purchases of flowers, candy, Hallmark cards and 'dinners for two'.  So we embrace the bullshit myth because its harmless and is of economic benefit and thus completely ignore the reality of a holiday's intent.

You will see as we go along, St Valentine's Day is not isolated.

President's Day (observed on 3rd Monday in February) -- The purpose is for government to officially lump every past and present President into one day that honestly few to none reflect upon.  And no better way to honor the legacies of Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison and Warren Harding with some retail store sales.
St Patrick's Day (March 17th) --  This holiday tends to piss us off more than any other in terms of how it is Wrongly celebrated.

It is meant to be a cultural and religious holiday celebrated to commemorate Saint Patrick, the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, who brought with him the arrival of Christianity into Ireland.

To be blunt, if you are not Christian and more specifically Irish, you have no business celebrating it!  But as stated with Valentine's Day, this attitude is bad for business.  Much more 'fun' to have people of every ethnicity and religion crowd the pubs and bars, guzzle down green beer and watch the NCAA Basketball tournament while wearing green "Fuck Me, I'm Irish" shirts.

For 364 days a year, most people don't give a flying flip about Ireland but that one day everyone wants to be Irish simply to have an excuse to get drunk.  Its really a shame how a beautiful culture has to get shit upon in that way with most American Irish not even realizing how utterly demeaning it is.

But as we will also demonstrate as we continue along, all religious based holidays are ultimately debased into multi-cultural and multi-ethnic enticements to shop and consume.
Easter (celebrated in 2013 on Sunday March 31) -- Here's another holiday that some celebrate wrongly.  The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the resurrection and spirit of Jesus Christ after his physical death two days prior on 'Good Friday'.  Thus its a religious holiday.

Many people do celebrate it correctly but we don't recall anything in the Bible about Easter bunnies, painted eggs, jellybeans, chocolate bars in the shape of the cross or marshmallow peeps.  Then again its been a while since we read New Testament...

Earth Day (April 22nd) -- A very modern 'holiday' started up in 1970.  Its meant to get people to reflect upon the Earth and conservation and recycling as in reality we consume more and more product in greater amounts of packaging and wrappers.

In a way, you'd think the best means of celebrating Earth Day would be for one day for people to consume Less thus less material to throw away which collects in our landfills or not drive so for a measly 24 hrs there'd be less emissions into the atmosphere to harm the ozone...  Just a kooky thought...
Mother's Day (second Sunday in May) -- The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in America. She then began a campaign to make "Mother's Day" (she specifically noted that "Mother's" should be a singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world) a recognized holiday in the United States. Although she was successful in 1914, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s.

We all love our mothers so why not demonstrate it with a Hallmark card... and flowers... and chocolate... and taking her to dinner and/or a baseball game... and buy her gift... Cha-Ching~ $$
Memorial Day (last Monday in May) -- This holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was Specifically and Solely to honor those who fought and died in the Civil War.  It was not meant to honor the dead of past wars and Certainly not to honor the dead of any future war...

Civil War soldiers ONLY

But by the 20th century, it the name was changed and Lazily became all-inclusive for all dead of all military encounters.

Think of it like a drawer that you have designated specifically for your check book and other important financial papers.  Then later on, someone decides to use that drawer to hold pencils, pens, rubber bands, candy bars, chewing gum wrappers, misc pennies and half used tissues, then instead of being called the "Financial papers" drawer its changed to 'Misc stuff'...

That's what happened to Decoration Day.

And of course we can think of no better way to remember the dead that with trips to the beach, watching NASCAR & the Indianapolis 500, having parties/BBQs and getting drunk.
Father's Day (third Sunday in June) -- Father's Day was founded in Spokane, Washington in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas.

Her father, the Civil War veteran of the Confederacy, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

It did not have much success initially. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers. Since 1938 she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion

Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, but the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and they eventually succeeded with Pres. Nixon signing the holiday into law in 1972.

And what better way to show your Dad you love him truly with a Hallmark card and a gift of a shirt or hunting gear or golf clubs or a pipe... and then take him to lunch and then a ball game... ~Cha-Ching $$
Independence Day (July 4th) -- The purpose of this holiday was to celebrate the official signing of the Declaration of Independence notifying King George III and the rest of the world that the 13 colonies saw themselves as independent of British rule.

It was not meant to be a day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, racial or gender equality, the concept of 'freedom, justice and equality for All' or any other modern politically-correct spin.   The document's purpose was specific in its intent (to declare ourselves outside of Britain's domain) and the day is regarded as the birth of our eventual nation.

Most people could not identify Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin or John Adams if given photos of their portraits or be able to locate Philadelphia on a map, so its understandable that many choose to honor the 4th by doing every activity conceivable (beach, baseball, NASCAR, parties, drinking, fireworks,etc..) outside of genuinely reflecting upon the historical significance of the act or that the colonists still had 5 years of brutal, bloody warfare to suffer through before the War for Independence ended at Yorktown, VA.
Labor Day (first Monday in September) -- Its ironic that the holiday which was started up in 1894 by labor union leaders is celebrated by so many people today like the Tea Party movement and ultra-fiscal Conservatives who hate and despise unions and would love to forever break them up.

Of course we give benefit of the doubt.  Few people really celebrate all the historical trials and tribulations of labor on Labor Day, or appreciate that pretty much Every single thing a worker has to his/her benefit which they take for granted, is there not by accident or employer kindness but due to the sacrifices of previous generations of the labor movement

Nope its more beach fun, family vacations, BBQ's, drinking and the Muscular Dystrophy telethon.

Just think-- if union workers were not brutally killed by US troops during the infamous 1894 Pullman Strike, Congress wouldn't have sped up passage of the holiday into law... Wheww, right?!
Patriot Day (September 11th) -- This is pretty new.. its meant to honor 9/11 so we never forget...  Call us cynical but all we remember about that day in terms of the word 'patriot' was being told that if we resumed shopping and travelling, we were 'patriots' and if we didn't buy that diamond Rolex or cancelled our trip to Aruba, we were letting the terrorists win...

Columbus Day (October 8th) -- Obviously its a day meant to celebrate Columbus' founding of America and recently has become both historical debate as to whether he really was the first to discover the continent (not counting the indigenous people living here already) and a political-correct slamming of the atrocities committed by him and by extension the Spanish.

Other than a NYC parade of Italians and some retail store sales, no one really pays Columbus day any mind and quite honestly, we don't either.
Halloween (October 31) -- It was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain.

The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints/All Souls by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities".

North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century give no indication that Halloween was celebrated there.  The Puritans of New England, for example, maintained strong opposition to Halloween and it was not until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century that it was brought to North America in earnest.

It was confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century, until gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the 20th century and now celebrated by everyone.

Now its big business-- candy, costumes and the like..All sincere meaning of Halloween sterilized and sanitized so that it is devoid of any meaning or significance altogether... A consistency of US holidays.
Veteran's Day (November 11) -- This was originally called Armistice Day meant to honor Specifically and Solely those who fought and died in World War I.    It was not meant to honor any military personnel of any other war before or after.

But we love our wars and as we said before, we can't have a holiday for every war we win and lose, so the true meaning and significance of November 11th is forever bastardized and thrown to the dust heap of forgottence to accommodate all service personnel of all wars even though that honor is not appropriate nor deserved for that specific day.

Its kind of like if say your birthday was very close to Christmas and rather than receive a distinctive celebration and presents for your birth separate to Christ's birth, lazy family and friends just lump it all together into a mish-mosh of Shit then maybe add acknowledgement of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in for good measure so all bases are covered and all guests can join in the festivities.
Thanksgiving (November 22 this year) -- In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest.

In later years, religious thanksgiving services were declared by civil leaders and celebrated with prayer and fasting...

Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. Influenced by the campaigning of author Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote letters to politicians for around 40 years trying to make it an official holiday, Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the Northern and Southern states. (later altered by law to benefit retailers to 2nd to last Thurs. if not enough days between Thanksgiving and Christmas for shopping)

Because of the ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America's refusal to recognize Lincoln's authority, the concept of "nationwide" Thanksgiving did not totally take effect until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s.

Of course now we pretty much take all religion out of the holiday and its about obligational turkey eating, family (and family fighting), football, parades and very recently starting 'Black Friday' shopping at 9p on Thurs night.
Christmas (December 25th) -- The holiday is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  There are many pagan symbols and mythology interspersed into the modern fabric of how the holiday is to be celebrated such as Christmas trees and the choosing of Dec 25th which has a connection to the pagan holiday of Winter Solstice.

But ultimately it is about celebrating the birth of Christ and it is pretty amazing how everyone from retailers/merchants to TV/movies do everything humanly possible to avoid the true purpose of the day by replacing 'Christmas' with 'Holidays' as in "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" which are truly empty, inoffensive slogans.

Many celebrate Christmas correctly but so many don't...

But its a free country so everyone has the right ultimately to take any holiday or tradition or cultural significance and completely alter and/or distort it for their own political or social conveniences.
To quote Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff about the USA:

"Ahh, What a Country.. Hehhh Hehhh Hehhhh"