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Holidays in Comparison

Well, tonight is the night — New Year’s Eve.  Ho Hum.

Had a conversation last night with my in-laws’ German exchange student about what people were planning for New Year’s Eve, what were the foods people eat in America on New Year’s etc. Was an interesting question, seeing I had been mulling this column for today at least several hours before that conversation.

Because really, for me, New Year’s is one of the least consequential holidays of the year.  Really, why do I stay up and lose sleep, just to observe a specific marker on the calendar. Why do I think so? How do I rate holidays?

At work we are given 9 holidays a year, and 3 floating holidays/personal days. Those holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • MLK
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • July 4th
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

As I would rate those days, The ones that don’t fall on a Monday are probably the most significant to me:

  • Easter (which is the real holiday of which Good Friday is the lead-in)
  • July 4th
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Which leaves the Monday holidays:

  • MLK Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Memorial day
  • Labor Day

Notice how I left New Year’s Day out of both lists.  It has more in common with the Monday holidays, but does float around the week for how it occurs.

The first list, with the exception of July 4th, are all religious holidays. The first list, with the exception of Thanksgiving, all mark specific historical events. They are all commemorations, connect us with the past in a commitment to the future.

The Monday list items are just nice secular days to have time off. As celebrated they don’t have any special observances done.

So where does that leave New Year’s? It isn’t religious, it isn’t a commemoration. It is a time to take off. 

There is a story I shared with the German exchange student last night, one that showed my age — from back in the old days of the 1980s. I mentioned the name Oliver North, and the Iran Contra affair.  

When Oliver North was in the middle of the media eye on Iran Contra, he couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t leave his house, without hordes of the press there to follow him, continually watching his house. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, didn’t matter, the press was there. Only one day showed a respite.  The media took off New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s day — had to sleep that binge off, after all). 

Being a minor press figure at the time, I found that observation interesting. I think it has colored my perception of the eve/day ever since.

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