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A List of Holidays Ranked by Awesomeness

In Holidays on October 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Columbus Day: Could we please get rid of it? He wasn’t even the first white dude to come to North America. Leif Erikson Day would be much better, as it could be Viking-themed and an excuse to drink mead.

Earth Day: Hooray for having a planet!

President’s Day: We sure do have an Executive Branch!

Memorial Day: There are very real historical/patriotic reasons to celebrate this holiday, but for most people it’s a day off and an excuse to barbecue. It is neither bad, but it is also not mind-blowingly celebratory.

Veteran’s Day: See above.

Labor Day: Basically the same as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day in terms of non-exciting-ness, but it’s nice to give summer a send off before everything gets all autumnal.

Valentine’s Day: This holiday sucks if you’re single because it’s a reminder of how lonely you are. It also sucks if you’re in a bad relationship because it will remind you of what a horrible train wreck-y failure your love life is. However, if you’re with someone whom you actually like, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to go out to dinner, make googly eyes at each other, and then have sex. That is generally a nice way to spend an evening.

Easter: If you don’t believe in Jesus then Easter is basically an excuse for chocolate. That’s okay if you like chocolate. It’s nice to herald the coming of spring, though, and tell winter to suck it. This holiday may also be referred to as Zombie Jesus Day, which is fun to say and annoys theists.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Hooray for positive, widespread social change regarding America’s painful, racist past! Seriously, it’s nice to be reminded that we, as a country, can do the right thing from time to time.

St. Patrick’s Day/Cinco de Mayo: These are days where Americans use a nationality as an excuse to drink.

The Fourth of July: This holiday is fun because things blow up, and participants may sing the “AMERICA: FUCK YEAH” song with only slight amounts of irony.

Christmas: The nice thing about Christmas is that lots of people take time off, you can see long-absent friends and relatives, and there is the opportunity to give and receive thoughtful gifts. On the other hand, it’s mandatory family time, gift giving can be stressful and expensive, and annoying music gets piped into retail outlets for the better part of December.

Thanksgiving: Hell yes lots of food!

New Year’s Eve: New Year’s is a pleasant chaser to Christmas. Christmas is mandatory family time, but New Year’s is a big party where you can decompress by getting drunk with your friends. There’s no big, important historical or religious aspect to it- it’s just everyone getting together to watch the calendar flip over like it’s a big odometer. When that happens, there is booze and smooching, both of which are enjoyable.

Halloween: Halloween is the best holiday, and if you say otherwise you’re full of wrong. Halloween is the day/night when everyone gets creative and dresses in a whimsical fashion. We allow ourselves to look, be, and act weird. It’s the day of the year where you drag your strange clothing out of your closet, turn it into a new persona, and act like a different person. Grownups, en masse, play pretend and let their guard down just a little. There are parties and dancing and all kinds of revelry, and you get to embody something that you’re not. Everyone who’s been to one knows that Halloween parties are different from other parties.

We drag out all the fear and weirdness that’s considered odd at other times of the year, and put it front and center, giving it a safe space. What’s more, it happens in autumn, probably the most beautiful time of year. It’s right on the balancing point just before everything gets cold, and the dark time of the year is ushered in with colorful gourds and orange lights. It’s a misty black-and-orange swirl of fun, and it remains the only holiday that I get really, truly excited for.

  1. Columbus Day continues to be wrongfully maligned. If you measure greatness by sheer number of people affected by someone’s actions, it would be hard to find many people greater than Columbus. He did what no pre-Columbian explorer did: established a lasting link between the New World and the Old. Compare him to Neil Armstrong: The landing on the moon was a great symbolic and scientific achievement, but there are no lunar colonies, no interplanetary (or inter-satelliatary?) travel. No one has even been to the moon for thirty years. Compare Armstrong’s achievement to Columbus’: Within fifty years of his voyage, there were substantial Spanish settlements on Hispaniola, Cuba and in Mexico. The Inca and Aztec Empires had been brought to their knees, and the first Cathedral in the New World (in Merida, Mexio–I’ve been there; it was built with stones from Maya Temples and you can still see some traces of Maya drawings) was already built a few years later. Neither Ericsson nor Armstrong can boast of such a quick and impressive results of their voyages, and their failure to effect such results demonstrates Columbus’ greatness.

    But Columbus’ greatness is thrown into even greater relief when you examine his and Ericsson’s long-term influence. I don’t believe there is any evidence that Columbus (or, for that matter, much of anyone else) had even heard of Ericsson’s voyage in 1492. Certainly none of the Spanish sources I’ve read on the issue make any reference to Ericsson. Ericsson accomplished nothing very constructive, and nothing at all that lasted. But look at Columbus’ long-term influence: The UN Declaration of Human Rights, the light bulb, The Catcher in the Rye, the theory of Continental Drift, Samba Music, and the Star Wars Trilogy, among other things, are inconceivable without Columbus’ voyage.

    Moreover, Columbus is one of the few instances in the world where credit goes to the man who actually did the deed rather than monarch who sponsored him. Prince Henry of Portugal is called “the navigator” even though he never left Portugal. The tendency gets particularly bad with buildings: Louis XIV didn’t build Versailles; he paid other people to build it with money he extorted from peasants. The trend reaches its nadir in Tibet, where King Song-tsen Gampo is credited with building the Tsu Lha Khang with his own hands, multiplying himself into a thousand bodies so that he could work on all the different parts of the temple simultaneously. The peasants who really swung the hammers to build the temple get no credit at all. But Columbus does: while a lot of people know that he was in the pay of Ferdinand and Ysabel, it is he, who faced death, who lived on a tiny ship for weeks at a time, who gets the credit. Let’s not take it away from him.

    To those who argue that, while Columbus may have been great, but was not good, I reply that goodness is not the issue at hand and that his goodness is cause for a certain amount of ambivalence. We who go to church are reminded weekly that the human race is a collection of sinners, and that pointing out the flaws of another individual is like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course Columbus had his faults and the momentous events that followed his voyage were full of suffering. Did anyone expect anything different? I would remind such detractors that for almost anyone living in Europe, Africa, or the Americas (including native Americans), wishing that Columbus had not sailed or that the connection that he forged had remained unfused, is like wishing your mother had not met your father. The last 519 years are unimaginable without Columbus, and so is anything in that period that you are pleased about, including your own birth. If you celebrate your birthday, it is not incongruous to celebrate Columbus, without whom so many of us would never have been born.

  2. First: The Leif Erikson thing was somewhat in jest- though apparently it is an actual thing. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/07/presidential-proclamation-leif-erikson-day-2011

    Second: I doubt that many Americans get the fine distinction you’re making. Yes, Columbus changed the world. I’m not arguing that. Nor am I arguing that the Old World should have never met the New. However, I am uncomfortable with celebrating conquest, even if I’m the beneficiary of such conquest. I’d like to think that if we were, now, to happen upon an alien race on some distant world, we would treat them with more humanity than the Spaniards treated the fellow humans they met in the Americas. This isn’t to say that I’m at all doubting the significance of what happened- but the past is red in tooth and claw.

    Seeing Columbus enshrined as a sterling pillar of discovery is also bad history. Plenty of people knew the world was round at that point- Aristotle actually had a very good estimate as to its circumference- and the flawless mythology that has grown around him should make anyone who cares about accuracy in history cringe.

    History is made up of humans, as opposed to a flawless parade of marble statues. However, every October Columbus day celebrates mythology rather than truth. It portrays his voyage as one of noble discovery rather than the messy, abrupt collision that it was. The world has grown immensely since then, but let’s not pretend for a moment that one of the most significant events of modern history was free from blood or suffering. If anything, it should call to mind reflection rather than celebration.

  3. I read much of this post aloud to my housemates. I figured you’d want to know.

  4. That’s quite flattering. Thanks, Mike!

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