Even if you’re talking like a landlubber today, do you have fun with other “invented” holidays? How about Pi Day? May the 4th? Or for some of you perhaps, 4/20? How about Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, April Fools Day, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve? People will take just about any excuse for some fun, won’t we?
Anthropologists have made full careers studying ritual and celebrations. I find the sheer range of holidays fascinating. The US has relatively few federal holidays, but we supplement these with religious holidays, state holidays, festivals, “Hallmark holidays”, birthdays, and more. We’ll happily appropriate another culture’s holiday if it seems fun (so sorry about what we’ve done with St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland!). Internet culture has helped spread ideas like International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Growing up, my family celebrated the typical big holidays for American Christians: Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I usually marched in the town Memorial Day parade and we often had a family get-together at an uncle’s lake house for July 4th. Gifts were expected for the honored person on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays (sometimes with a brunch or dinner). As far as family-specific events, we kept a family tradition for St. Nicholas Day thanks to my father’s German heritage, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve generally had a couple of extra family dinners on the Polish side.
When it came time for my own family to do holidays, the Big Ones quickly turned into hassles. My brothers fled to opposite corners of the continental US and I’m in the midwest, with my parents several hours’ drive away. My husband has some relatives nearby, but his immediate family is in the Southwest. My stepson had to divide time between three parents’ families. We had to start playing the negotiation game: we’ll see you for Thanksgiving and visit them for Christmas next year, and what’s our agreement about birthday presents for the growing gaggle of nieces and nephews? The joy of celebrating a holiday can quickly get sucked away in guilt and logistics. Maybe that’s why I enjoy Talk Like a Pirate Day, or cutting a pi symbol into the top of an apple pie on March 14th. No obligations, lots of smiles.