As we approach the ‘holiday season’ – including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Day in our American culture – I’m wondering what would happen if we made all our national holidays (or excuses for a day or two, or week or two of vacation) secular days of remembrance instead. The only exception in my view might be Thanksgiving, for even those who do not identify with a religion or other tribal perspective have within themselves as humans the ability to be grateful for what they have.
So let’s change Christmas from a legal holiday, and put it in the same category as other religious holidays. Others who celebrate according to a religion other than Christianity don’t get their special day ‘off’. So why should a Christian holy day be any different? Besides, tradition set aside, federal and state governments are supposed to be separate from religion, right? So no Christmas holiday, okay? (Yes, I am a Grinch.)
What might a secular calendar look like?
New Year’s Day (Still an arbitrary day, but not based in religion.) – a way to mark the annual cycle of the sun, or in terms of Human Design, the day that the sun passes through the 41st Gate of the Rave I Ching hexagram – the ‘start gate’ of our DNA codon.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Honoring national heroes is a good thing, but where are the others’ memorial days? What about Chief Sitting Bull, or Harvey Milk, or Eleanor Roosevelt?
President’s Day (Remember when the calendar used to be marked with President Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays?) Now, all the Presidents can be remembered on this one day that gives certain, but not all, citizens a day off. (In Virginia where I used to live the banks got Jefferson Davis Day off.)
Memorial Day To honor those who died and/or were wounded in serving the U.S. armed forces. But let’s get rid of the glorification of war, American pride, and ‘hero worship’. Let’s remember also those who died in service to America, here and abroad, at the hands of terrorists of all kinds.
Independence Day – To remember and celebrate why we are no longer a colony of England (not another day to focus on our military ‘heroes’) As citizens and residents who have chosen to live here, this could be a celebration of our freedom and liberty to matriculate in this country mostly unimpeded, to pursue the visions we have for our lives. We all have given service to this country in one form or another. Let’s celebrate all of us!
Labor Day – A celebration of the American labor movement, dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. (Wikipedia) What are some ways that we can celebrate this day in today’s work culture? What about inequality of gender work forces? What are some of the achievements that women have made?
Veterans Day To honor those living veterans, who served in the military, in peacetime or war. How can we honor in a really positive, not morose, way the service our veterans have given to the country? From the veterans I know, a free dinner at a franchise restaurant feels more patronizing and inconvenient than an ‘attaboy’. I know a veteran who suffers from trauma from Viet Nam who has the heart, but not the wherewithal, to cook dinner in a local park for all the homeless from that same era who live in the park. He’s grateful to be alive, and I believe he feels a little guilty for it.
Thanksgiving Day (Without religious undertones, please) Gratitude is an innate human quality of feeling that doesn’t require a religious belief in order to have it.
Maybe we could create other holidays to focus on science, health, families, something new, non-traditional – create new traditions.
National Family Life Day
National Mental Health Day
Spring Equinox/Summer Solstice/Autumn Equinox/Winter Solstice – natural, science – not pagan or heathen, etc.
National First Peoples Day
National Violence Awareness Day
National Peace Day
Take a Vegetarian to Lunch Day
Instead of having just the one ‘National Black History Month’ – we could discontinue it, or we could add others – like National Women’s Herstory Month, National Hispanic History Month, National Islam History Month, National Jewish History Month, National Native American Month, National Irish-American Month, National Polish-American Month, National Japanese-American Month, National Children’s Month, and so forth. And we could get rid of Columbus Day.
Oh, yes, and my birthday – and your birthday. I’m a firm believer that each person should get his or her birthday off each year, paid leave.
And what happened to Flag Day? I just heard a wonderful piece on BBC, of all places, about our national flag and the poet who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner. When was the last time that day was acknowledged?
As you might suspect I am being somewhat facetious about all this, but I do think it’s time that we as a collective need to re-think, re-design, re-form how we honor people, places and times of our history. These people, places and times have impacted all of us, in some way, even through our ancestors. How they are honored should be with a collective vision, consideration and effort, not with a narrow focus.
Inclusiveness, not separation, is what unites people. Drawing the circle bigger to bring others into our communities with all the differences can be challenging. But separation keeps us weak and un-enriched and under-nourished. And respect for all ideologies, all paths, without creating discomfort for others; that helps, too.
A few years ago my daughter showed me a calendar that her friends created that made each day ‘special’. Things like ‘wear red day’, ‘play hopscotch day’, ‘braid your hair day’, ‘kiss a frog day’ were set onto the calendar. Even in an individual way, each one of us can create the kind of calendar and day we want to experience in our lives. We don’t need to follow the pack when it comes to how we live our yearly cycle through this world. Let’s change some things around and create new ways to honor and celebrate those things that should be honored and celebrated.
Imagine there’s no heaven, No hell
Imagine all the people, Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion, too
Imagine all the people, Living life in peace
Imagine no possessions,
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world
From John Lennon’s Imagine