A year or two ago, I remember reading an article about Dios de la Muertos. The author was exasperated that her ethnic group’s celebration was becoming mainstream- mainstream in the sense that a lot of fat white people were amusing themselves by dressing up in the festival costume of people they have treated and do treat like dirt. You Anglos celebrate our festival as a curiosity- as a cultural artifact that you take if you want and do with as you please, she said. But this is part of my religion. This isn’t a joke for me.
That was a year ago. I haven’t been able to find that particular article. If I do I’ll link to it.
Here are some other articles.
As I was thinking about this, I wondered- if it is bad for us to celebrate your holiday, what holiday should we anglos be celebrating?
Halloween, of course! They happen about the same time- they both have something to do with death. So, we’ll just practice that version instead.
But then the irony hit me. Halloween seems to have come from the Celtic holiday Sanhaim. It’s the holy day of a culture and language that was deliberately erased by the English- the original Anglos- in every way they could think of. If I remember correctly, step dancing- dance of the celtic Irish- was designed so that patrolling English looking in the waist high windows wouldn’t notice they were dancing and come in and beat them up.
Halloween is ok to appropriate because it was appropriated before our time?
I suppose there a lot of arguments that could be made about that. But then I started thinking about some of our other holidays. Maybe the rest of you know this stuff already, but I hadn’t thought about it before. Here’s how it went.
Thanksgiving. The first European settlers that we will admit to (Jamestown was a stinky failure) nearly starved to death their first winter on these shores. The friendly local inhabitants saved their lives by bringing them food and teaching them how to plant crops in their new environment. The settlers thanked God for feeding them, and then (in the long run) proceeded to cheat, bully and massacre the original inhabitants because God said they could.
Christmas. God impregnated a 14 year old and she gave birth to the child. In our culture God would be prosecuted as a pedophile because the 14 year olds are so young and naive that the power imbalance between them and, say, a 19 or 20 year old who impregnates them, is so great that the relationship constitutes predation.
God is said to be at least billions of years old.
God also didn’t pay child support, but we at least don’t have a specific date on which to celebrate that.
Mardi Gras. A religious holiday? Um. We celebrate. People’s asses? What’s that one about again? Mostly celebrated in New Orleans where there used to be French people. In the rest of the country where there didn’t used to be French people, people sort of just wear the beads and giggle nervously. Or travel to New Orleans for a chance to act like morons.
So… more inappropriate appropriation.
Valintines Day. A minor holiday. We celebrate romance. Or try. In a very shy, frigid and mass produced sort of way.
It also something to do with St. Valentine, but we try not to think about Saints very much because of the thing about God feeling the death of the devoted is precious to him (psalm 116), and then how the people who were really devoted to God ending up being butchered in horrible and surprising ways.
Because… God isn’t a sadistic voyeur at all.
Fourth of July. Our forefathers embarked on their dangerous bid for a nation state of their own: an idealistic state structured around the principle that political liberty and equality were the innate right of all human beings- since all humans are created in the image of God and therefore have innate value that must be recognized politically. They proceeded to spend most of the next 100 years sailing to another Continent, kidnapping people, selling them as slaves, breeding them like livestock and working them to death.
These images of God were not innately valuable because obviously God is Caucasian and they didn’t resemble God as much as other people. Fully half of the Caucasians at the time were not given political equality (without which liberty is somewhat chancy) because God obviously has a penis and other male biological markers. So, these images didn’t look nearly as much like God as the others did.
Washington’s Birthday. Washington being one of the Founding Fathers, this is similar to the the Fourth of July. We mostly don’t remember who Washington was except for the Cherry Tree Story, which didn’t actually happen and heaven help us if we remember what the punchline was. “Father, I cannot tell my allies I’m spying on them, but I can’t not spy on them either.”
I think that was it.
Possibly this should be renamed Edward Snowden Day?
Lincoln’s birthday. Slavery- the buying, selling, breeding like livestock and working to death of other human beings- was such a non-issue that no one did anything about it until it screwed up our system of importing and exporting goods. Then somebody shot the politician who freed the slaves as part of the solution. Also there was a war.
Martin Luther King Day. We are Such Racist Fucks. A Caucasian shot an African American for having the audacity to say so. The African American was even using polite language. The Caucasian sure showed him wrong. Right?
Easter. A long time ago, it was a celebration of new life and fertility. But then God took it over. Today, if we celebrate it at all, we celebrate by dressing up in happy pastel colors and going to church where we thank God for loving us so much that he would brutally torture his own child to death so that we could see what we have coming if we don’t beg for forgiveness and thank God for ever little good thing that happens as if He were the direct instead of the ultimate cause.
(Alternately, God allowed us to torture His child to death, so that we would finally see what awful fucks we are for torturing his child to death. Despite the fact that if God has one of us tortured to death, it’s “precious”.)
God then brought his child back to life so that 1) there would be a carrot for obedience, and 2) it would be clear that even death wont save you from God.
There is still some fertility symbolism associated with the day. But mostly it’s used to market candy.
Labor day. Like Mardi Gras, I can’t remember why we have this one. But I don’t think we stole it from anyone either. It’s clearly not religious because instead of gorging on clothing, gifts, candy, food or sex in attempt to relieve our anxiety, people usually just hang out with their families and have a nice time together.
Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. In honor of the soldiers who have survived and the soldiers who have died in our near continual wars. Not particularly religious. Celebrated like Labor day.
Which brings us full circle to Halloween. Once a celebration of death as Easter was a celebration of life, when God took it over, the day upgraded very naturally to All Hallows Eve/All Saints Day, but then was downgraded to The Day We Get to Wear Costumes because we’re Not Catholic and we Don’t Like to Think About Saints.
There are a handful of others, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo, and Dias De Los Muertos etc, practiced by constituant minorities. They are becoming more popular as we attempt/ pretend to be less racist. But we are still pretty racist on one hand and on the other hand it seems people don’t appreciate having their holy-days stolen by commercialists like us.
In short. I had a realization. America doesn’t have a lot of good holidays.
Maybe that’s why we keep trying to steal more, huh?
It was recently the Fourth of July, the day on which we are supposed to try to feel patriotic.
What can I say? I honestly didn’t feel celebratory.
Maybe I can say this. Holidays are embedded in the past. Some of them commemorate past events. Some past persons. Some commemorate the cyclic passage of time, as we have experienced it thus far. They bring the past with us as we go, and sometimes the past has been horrible.
“But he who has no memories can have no wishes.”
Michael Ende said that. He wrote The Neverending Story.
If we wish the future to be different from the past. the past has to keep existing. In memories, in books, in rituals like holidays, it has to come with us, or we will never go anywhere.
As far the act of celebrating goes, if life is a good thing, then as long as we’re alive something can be found to celebrate.
We can celebrate birth, death, and love. We can celebrate the sacrifices that have been made to keep them from having to be made again, or made as often. We can celebrate the survival of everyone who has survived, whether they fought in war or escaped a genocide.
And if the founders didn’t describe the nation they built, perhaps they describe the nation we are building. A free nation with liberty and justice for all- it’s not what we have been.
But maybe it’s what we will one day be.
Or maybe that’s not even the point. Maybe they were describing the goal that we aim for- no matter how close we ever come or how far we fall short.
Maybe that’s what’s Holi about the Days.