Monday, November 10, 2008

A Ringing Endorsement of Festivus

Now that Halloween and the momentous elections have passed, American society has sprung into full-force holiday mode. A bevy of celebratory invites, toy sales and an extra helping of guilt have no doubt inundated many of you, dear readers. And if they haven't yet, just give it another week or two.

Sure, there are only 43 days to go before the big C, but that is still no explanation for the three dozen emails that jammed my inbox today and proved that no matter what you celebrate, people take the holidays personally. A friend's suggestion to give a large public party a reindeer theme, sent the non-Christian faction off on a bit of a tirade how even seemingly secular symbols like Rudolph, stockings, mistle toe and trees still have a Christmas connotation for those outside the nativity scene fence.

Had this discussion surrounded a private party, at someone's house, it probably would not have bothered me at all. If my friend wants to invite me to a Christmas-themed holiday bash, that's cool with me. Pass the egg nog and but don't expect me to carol. Likewise, when I hosted a Shtetl Fabulous Hannukah soiree last year, the whole gang played dreidel and ate latkes, but only the Jews lit candles.

One friend in the group asserted that religiously-based holidays should remain religious, the whole keep the Christ in Christmas thing. And while I'm no fan of Hanukkah Harry myself, I believe that if you're going to make a place for one faith in a party that is open to the public, then there should be a place for all faiths.

This is why I advocate for broader observance of the grand holiday of Festivus in the public square (no disrepect to Chabad's menorah displays, those entertain me profusely). Somehow a holiday where the ritual observances include adoration of an unadorned metal pole, airing grievances against loved ones and wrestling in feats of strength speaks to me. Maybe it's because many family gatherings often devolve into shouting matches anyway and by sanctioning these from the start, there would be no hard feelings. Or maybe it's because covering a paper towel roll in aluminum foil would be so much cheaper than a menorah (or a kinara or a tree for that matter).

I had always thought checking out everyone's individual family or ethnocultural holiday traditions were pretty much the biggest perks of the holiday season. Even though I've never really celebrated Christmas, I always dug those Swedish girls with burning candles on their heads. And observing Kwanzaa has been one of the coolest experiences of my life. I can't wait to find out what Danish gluck is from my friend and maybe I will bust out some cheese to celebrate Judith's beheading of the evil Assyrian general Holofernes.

Until then, deck the halls for some peace on earth over eight days because a great miracle happened there. Then reflect on the principles of Nguzo Saba and pour a libation and do whatever it is people do for Diwali, Tet, Carnival and more until it's time to do it all again next year.

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