If I were in charge, the following days would be fully-recognized, widely-celebrated holidays. Businesses and schools would be closed, the government would shut down, people would gather with family and friends, and there’d be big cookouts with lots of alcohol. I already celebrate some of the holidays on this list myself, but it would be much more fun if I could celebrate all of them, especially if lots of other people were doing the same. They are listed in chronological order.
Confederate Surrender Day: April 9th
Many historians say it was the Civil War that truly made the United States of America into a nation, much as World War I made France into a nation. Not a nation in the sense of a polity with a unified government, but in the more accurate sense of the a group of people who self-identify with a cultural group that is bound together by shared language, customs, and history. Before this destructive (yet ultimately unifying) conflict, people would say, for example, “The United States are going to war with Mexico,” whereas after the Civil War the phrase became, “the United States is going to war with Japan.”
If we have a holiday that celebrates the creation of the U.S. as an independent polity (Independence Day), should we not also have one that celebrates the creation of a sense of unified nationhood? Is the latter no less important than the former?
Okay, okay: I’m going to be honest here: while all the above is arguably true, the real reason I like this holiday idea is that it’s fun to see Southerners get all riled up when you remind them that they lost the war—especially those who subscribe to the “Lost Cause” viewpoint, which views the Confederate cause as a noble, moralistic struggle, and ridiculously sees the war itself as a conflict which the Confederacy could, and should, have won. These people must be put in their place!
The holiday’s date would mark the surrender of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant and Union forces at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. Every community from the smallest town to the largest city would have a ceremony commemorating this momentous event, as well as its own re-enactment of the famous incident in May 1863 whereby a group of Confederate sentries shot their own General—and not just any General, but the revered Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. How do you expect to win the war when you shoot your own General??
4/20: April 20th (obviously)
I suppose this wouldn’t necessarily need to be a day off as long as the federal government passed a law which stipulated that no organization could punish any employee on 4/20 for getting high at work, showing up to work high already, or not accomplishing any real work as a result of being high. Except for firefighters and hospital workers of course.
Crossing Day: June 21st
This holiday would commemorate the entry of the first human beings into the New World, i.e. the true “discovery of America”. The inspiration for this holiday comes largely from the hypocrisy of Columbus Day, which wrongly attributes the “discovery” of the Americas to Europeans in general and Christopher Columbus in particular. Why do we have a holiday that commemorates the beginning of a 500-year process of colonization, warfare, exploitation, biological catastrophe, and ethnic destruction?
The very idea that a new continent was “discovered” is ludicrous, considering that by 1492 AD there had been human beings inhabiting the Americas for somewhere between 12,000 and 40,000 years, more likely closer to the latter. Furthermore, even if the premise of Columbus Day were adjusted to commemorate the first European voyage to America, it would still be inaccurate, as research which has existed since the 19th Century shows that Europeans had visited present-day Canada centuries before Columbus’s voyage to the Caribbean.
This holiday would be named “Crossing Day” because the theory that humans first entry into America was by crossing the Bering Land Bridge (between present-day Alaska and Siberia, now submerged) is at present the most widely-supported theory within the scientific community. But the details are not so important: even if another theory turned out to be correct, the basic idea behind Crossing Day (a commemoration of humanity’s first entry into an entire hemisphere of the planet) would remain intact. And the date doesn’t really matter-June 21st is just an arbitrary selection.
Festivus: December 23rd
Ah, the holidays: family gatherings, hearty meals, the spirit of giving… these are the things that make the holiday season so special. What a second… no they’re not! The holiday season is about crass commercialism and compulsory consumption. Once a year, for a period stretching well in excess of one month (from Black Friday to roughly New Year’s Day) we are exhorted to do our part and buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend.
Tell me what would seem more out of place: If one year there was a Christmas season where no one gathered with their families, went to church, and perhaps donated a small amount of money or food to charity, or a Christmas season without an endless barrage of advertisements demanding that the citizenry shell out its hard-earned savings to some monolithic mega-corp, one without people spending money on gaudy decorations, cheap trinkets, more clothes, or unnecessary consumer electronics? For me it is the latter scenario seems far stranger, and indeed, far more unlikely.
But fear not, for there is a new holiday, a better holiday, free from the endless commercialism and petty religious controversies that surround Christmas: “A Festivus for the rest of us!” Because this holiday is secular it has the power to unite us all, regardless of color or creed. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or nothing at all, you are free to celebrate Festivus. It is also a holiday steeped in tradition and ritual: the Festivus Pole, Festivus Dinner, the Airing of Grievances, and the Feats of Strength are as much a part of Festivus as rampant commercialism is a part of Christmas. Let’s rumble!
-Van Whyte 7/18/2011