I was pondering what to write for a post-Thanksgiving column, and it occurred to me to look at some of our major holidays and categorize them.
Not as easy a task as I first thought. How to even choose? My calendar book lists more than 70 “important dates,” which of course begs the question: Important to whom?
My wife and I were in Mexico for a wedding a couple of years ago, and her nephew and his fiancée chose the Day(s) of the Dead to kick off the weeklong bash. And, boy howdy, is it a party down there. Yes, it has Catholic connections – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – but the spirit is purely pagan.
And our major holidays are a mixed bag as well: Easter and Christmas, just to name the two Christian biggies, were originally pagan celebrations of the seasons. So let’s consider those categories again: pagan and religious, to which I will add nationalist and secular. And Nationalism (with a capital N) is, to my mind, a kind of religion, as patriots belong to the school of true believers as much as any devout Christian or Muslim or what have you.
Which brings me back to Thanksgiving. I can’t think of a single other holiday that I can consider purely secular. Think about it. Hmmm … maybe St. Patrick’s Day? Nope. It commemorates Ireland’s introduction to Christianity. It also has more than a whiff of paganism about it. And you might call Memorial Day and Independence Day secular, but they’re nationalistic to the hilt.
Labor Day, then? It began as a celebration of trade unions and the labor movement – definitely secular – but it seems to me that corporate America has co-opted it as a shopping holiday. Anyway, notions about the worth of unions and labor are just so quaint these days.
We can skip right past Halloween, of course, and that leaves turkey day. It’s my favorite holiday of the year, as it is against no one and inclusive of everyone. Even the poor, and that’s saying something, as America generally pretty much hates the poor. After all, they deserve it, right?
(Cheap psychoanalysis: root cause, pure projection; fear of how close to the poor-precipice many are, coupled with a refusal to acknowledge our civic failure to address equality of opportunity. Closeted fear: that we, the citizenry, might be the enemy of our corporate masters. In other words, class warfare.)
But enough on that. Let’s return to Thanksgiving, part of which means thinking about, preparing, sharing the holiday feast, and then enjoying the leftovers for the long weekend. We’re now into turkey day three, and if you’re like me, it’s time to finish breaking down the carcass for stock for soup.
Some of you might recall that I used to write a food column for the Spokesman, and I still like to sneak in some food-related thoughts now and then. I’ll close with a condensed version of what I had to say in this space six Thanksgivings ago:
I consider many activities, stock-making among them, spiritual practices. And I think a post-Thanksgiving stock is something special; it’s a shared private affair, so to speak, as stoves across the land participate in making soup. That turkey carcass isn’t empty; it’s filled with communal import, and to me it’s the inauguration of the season of giving thanks (more so than the rest of the year) and sharing goodwill and fellowship.
Here’s to the pleasures of the holiday season, however and in whatever ways you celebrate. Take stock – and make stock – in a shared spirit of peace and goodwill for all.