An American year

Meaning that there is a holiday — federal, religious, cultural, or celebratory — about every two weeks.  This is not so elsewhere.

It struck me this week as I walked home from work in my green suit in a sea of people decked out in emeralds, limes, and spring greens.  I know several of these are holy days rather than holidays, and the sporting events are not technically holidays, but they are moments of national celebration that collectively shape the rhythm of the year in a diverse  culture.  I missed out Ramadan and Diwali and other religious observances, but the ones I included are the ones that seem to get the most mainstream recognition.

In America, holidays are a serious business.  School children mark them with cookies and cupcakes, differentiated only by the color of the icing.  Suburban homes switch out their flags.  Mardi gras beads appear in the color of the season.  The drugstores update their merchandise to lure us to the next party with matching paper plates and napkins.

This is a culture that values celebration and commercial opportunities.  It also seems to be a culture that doesn’t like the ordinary and everyday.  There has to be something to look forward to and celebrate.  I think the longest stretch without an identifiable holiday is between July 4th and Labor Day.  When everyone’s at the beach.

So, here’s wishing you a Happy National Chocolate Caramel Day!

12 responses to “An American year”

  1. Dave says:

    Wow, I love the images. So exuberant.

    I was under the impression that other countries also had loads of holidays, but maybe I’m thinking of Catholic countries where there are lots of saints’ days and other days with weird, liturgical names. It’s pleasing to think that the mish-mash of holidays is distinctively American.

  2. SlipperFeet says:

    A really interesting observance — no pun intended.

    Living in the burbs, I’m amazed by the attention paid by so many flag people. I often wonder who the heck would have the time or money to pick out so many goshdarn flags.

    I would add one item to your list, and that’s with the spread of social networking sites, there are many more birthdays to acknowledge. Oops, gotta run, I’ve gotta send an e-card to some guy I went to high school with!

  3. Stella says:

    Dave, you’re probably right about the saints days etc., but I don’t think they have matching paper plates and flags.

  4. LP says:

    “This is a culture that values celebration and commercial opportunities… There has to be something to look forward to and celebrate.”

    So true! We’re all about the cupcakes and fireworks, aren’t we? I always found it amusing that Americans have all these jolly holidays, and the British celebrate a guy getting burned alive by roasting marshmallows. American children would weep with horror!

  5. Stella says:

    Marshmallows on Guy Fawkes Night?! Toffee apples, treacle toffee and jacket potatoes. There’s nothing like a celebratory potato, is there?

  6. Ivy says:

    On Guy Fawkes night here, we blow things up. Whether anyone under the age of 20 understands why is moot. But hey, here summer is beginning come November, it’s still legal to buy fire crackers (for about a three day period for the purpose), so why not?

  7. Stella says:

    Where is here?

  8. swells says:

    I still fantasize about the treacle toffee in your Guy Fawkes post from a few years back, and about having my own “toffee hammer” (or at least having toffee regularly enough to need one). The images above, by the way, are amazing. The office manager where I work is VERY into every available surface in the entire building being overdecorated for every holiday, with no breaks in between holidays, which makes me very disgruntled. However, in the form of this post’s photos, it’s a perplexing delight to look at our funny culture this way.

  9. LP says:

    Ivy is New Zealandish.

  10. Ivy says:

    Oh yes, sorry. I swoop in on my broomstick, may oblique cultural references and forget to be explicit. Unlike Australia (where I have also lived), once colonised NZ had intensely English, protestant immigration, so we have kept more of those festivals. Australia had (and has) a far greater Catholic population, first with British immigrants and subsequently with Italians.

    Being so isolated, random events survive and generally it is the land of the weird.

  11. J-Man says:

    And incredibly delicious food, I hear.

  12. Ivy says:

    Well, having been slightly crippled by our mainly British heritage (sorry, Stella!) we had a slow start in the food department, but the produce is very good and also as a long skinny country we have huge marine resources. (From memory I think the local sea territory is larger than the land area, and noone lives more than 100 miles from the beach.)

    The isolation makes us look out, so that makes for interesting times and also food. As one singer said, its the tyranny of distance. It also meant that we innovate. Historically, it was necessary when supplies were 3 months away in Britain. But definitely get weird, too.