Out of the Blue
Holiday Mother Lode
With an extra day to celebrate
By Deborah Salomon
Every so often I, as the saying goes, “wax philosophical.” The most likely result is a criticism of some innovation that captures the minds of techies. You know, the ones who stand in line all night to purchase the latest iPhone that promises everything south of open-heart surgery. This time, the trigger was February, which owns far and away more holidays than any other month.
Americans start by hounding a groundhog, continue to boozy Mardi Gras, somber Ash Wednesday, Chinese New Year, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day (formerly Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays). February has been designated American Heart Month as well as Black History Month, although Martin Luther King Day is Jan. 15, his birthday. Each observance has a story which, in days gone by, grade-schoolers would research in an encyclopedia, perhaps for a “project.”
Now they push a few buttons, skim the results, copy, paste and move on to something else.
I doubt cherry pie or the Gettysburg Address would be part of a combined Presidents Day experience. More likely a long ski weekend which, I’ve heard, suggested its creation. I’m thinking Washington and Lincoln deserve their own days, as might FDR, JFK. Otherwise, the new holiday on the third Monday of the month includes all presidents, some less than celebratory.
Obviously, holidays are promoted for commercial gain. In cities with significant Chinese populations, an eight-course New Year’s Chinese restaurant extravaganza makes our Thanksgiving repast look like Pop-Tarts. The candy/greeting card/floral industries thrive on Valentine’s Day, despite the untimely death by decapitation of its patron saint.
I understand how Heart Month plays off Valentine’s Day symbols. However, a typical Valentine’s dinner will include a well-marbled steak, potatoes dripping butter and, for dessert, a hardly healthy heart-shaped cheesecake.
At best, holidays give texture to a society while preserving its heritage. To my knowledge, neither AI nor a 3-D printer has replicated any of the above.
Commercial or not, holidays serve a greater purpose. At best, they bring people together, even blot out horrors. Somewhere in Ukraine, world-famous hand-painted Easter eggs will surface in March.
For 21 years I lived in Vermont, where Blacks make up about 1 percent of the population. Every February the university hosted a soul food dinner, its menu prepared by volunteers. Tickets sold out in a day. Participants, Black and white, came from all over the state to eat chitlins, fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, “shiny” beans and peach cobbler. I attended to write a story but had a fantastic time remembering Southern preparations with 20 inches of snow on the ground and temps in the single digits.
February even has a quirky conclusion. Because 2024 is a leap year, this shortest month at 28 days will boast 29, enabling people born that day to have a once-in-four-years celebration.
Because the way things are going, who knows where the world will be next time leap year rolls around? PS
Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at email@example.com.