New and Exciting Holidays

July 4, 2008 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

As an atheist, one of the more unusual problems I have is in celebrating holidays. Everyone enjoys time off, being with friends and family, and general merriment, but there is a certain level of hypocrisy in celebrating a holiday the religious basis of which you do not recognize. For example, though Christmas has been largely secularized over the years it retains a strong religious background (see the “War on Christmas”), and it can make things a bit awkward for me as a result.

Given this, I’ve decided to experiment with making my own list of holidays to celebrate; ones which would be completely non-secular yet still involve togetherness and time with loved ones. My two options here are to adopt a mishmash of holidays from around the world or simply make my own, and at the moment I’m leading towards the former.

Here’s a list of holidays I’m considering recognizing in the future; it’s very tentative at the moment, and I’d welcome input and suggestions. Please note that this list does not take into account government holidays (like Canada Day) or minor holiday’s (like St. Patrick’s Day):

Burns Night
When: January 25
About: Burns Night is a celebration of the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns. They generally include readings of his work and more general examples of Scottish culture, as well as tradition Scottish foods.
Pros: I find the idea of a holiday dedicated to an artist incredibly appealing. Ideally this world involve a bunch of friends sitting around, reading poetry, listening to Scottish music, drinking Scotch and generally being incredibly classy gentlemen. It’s something I can really get behind.
Cons: It’s very difficult to find haggis in North America, and without it Burns Night would just be missing something.

Bonfire Night
When: November 5
About: On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the English Parliament. Over 400 years later, they’re still burning him in effigy. Nowadays it mostly involves bonfires and fireworks, which is something I’m all for. My friends and I actually tried to celebrate Bonfire Night this year, but couldn’t find anywhere willing to let us light a large fire.
Pros: Bonfires are fun, and everyone loves running around with sparklers. It’s a nice chance to be outside with friends.
Cons: Can be ruined by weather. Also, burning someone in effigy is really creepy.

When: Second Monday of October
About: Get the family and/or friends together, hang out all day, eat turkey and lot’s of other food, and (if there’s time) reflect on what you’re thankful for in your life. It’s pretty well known.
Pros: Since it’s a well-established holiday, there’s no problems getting other people to celebrate it with me. It’s also one of the few major holidays to have no religious grounding.
Cons: None, really.

When: October 31
About: Halloween is about the dark things at the edge of your imagination. All the anxieties, unstated fears and worries of the world burst out in an explosion of candy and costumes.
Pros: I am a huge fan of Halloween; since childhood, it’s always been my favourite holiday.
Cons: This slightly bends my ‘non-secular’ rule, given Halloween’s pagan roots. However, I consider this minor enough not to matter.

Some other options:

Day of the Dead, which is interesting yet runs prohibitively close to Halloween and Bonfire Night.

Yule; I like the idea of celebrating an astronomical event (in this case, the Winter Solstice), and it makes a decent replacement for the Christmas holiday, but it does seriously stretch my ‘non-secular’ rule. Also, I’d probably start recognizing Litha, the Summer Solstice, if I did decide to go with this.

Pi Day; the only ‘Geek Holiday’ on the list. Every March 14 (3/14) you celebrate the number Pi by eating pie. It’s something to consider.

Bloomsday, another holiday celebrating an artist (this time Irish author James Joyce), particularly his work Ulysses. Accord to Wikipedia “the day involves a range of cultural activities including Ulysses readings and dramatizations, pub crawls and general merriment”. Traditional Irish food and drink is served. Also, because it takes place on June 16th, it helps fills in the holiday-lean summer months. The only major issue is that I have not actually read Ulysses, so I’d probably have to do that beforehand.

So those are the holidays I’m currently considering. However, the list seems very lacking at the moment, and some of the suggestions probably won’t make the final cut. If anyone would like to suggest awesome holidays for me to celebrate, I welcome the help.


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