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Holidays not so holy anymore

Debacle of drunkards, gifts, madness replace true meaning

By Derek Dissell
On November 26, 2012

  • Owner Paulius Nasvytis, who purchased the building in 1996, has created a highly specialized and consistent menu to ensure the highest quality cocktails are served. Photo courtesy Derek Cahill

The word "holiday," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is derived from an old English word meaning "holy day." The OED defines "holy" as "dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred."
 In today's context, holiday could be more loosely defined as "a day of celebration, gathering, love and family - often revolving around religious or national themes." If I was to ask anyone if he or she agreed with that definition, I suspect I would find little dissent.
With that being said, it is worth looking at how the actual event compares with the definition. Sadly enough, we have eviscerated almost every holiday of its meaning.
Take Halloween, for example. Instead of a day where we pay respects to dead souls and examine the frailties and finite reality of life, we find excuses to turn it into one giant party. The costume industry opens up shops months before the actual day, people imbibe to intolerable levels, and we give our children "treats" that only foster more obesity and bad eating (at my house, we were met by lugubrious children who were exasperated at the fact that they received crayons!)
Saint Patrick's Day is yet another boon to the alcohol industry. It's a day where all you need to be Irish is dressing in a green T-shirt holding a pint of Guinness. Disregard Irish culture (OK, there is some dancing and music), history and identity. Just as long as you know how to drink all day, you'll fit right in.
Christmas, more aptly titled "Capitalistmas," is perhaps the worst example. Intended to be a day of celebration of the birth of Jesus, a man who preached against materialism and advocated monasticism and asceticism, it has become a day in which families spend entire savings (or go into debt) in order to create needs for their children that had never previously existed.
And let us not forget the Christmas industry. As soon as Thanksgiving ends, retail stores attempt to capitalize with Christmas music and ornate sales areas. Soon enough, we will be hit with an endless barrage of movies, songs and specialized events, many well before "Capitalistmas."
Even Thanksgiving is no stranger to commercialization and devoid meaning, although it is arguably the most fulfilling holiday. Walmart, Sears and Target have now created "Black Thursday," moving the major sales day to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Is there anything sacred in this country?
Most sensible families will hold off on the shopping and enjoy the night.Many, however, will seek to join in the barbaric, gladiator-like struggle that is Black Thursday. Expect more tramplings, assaults and thefts.
There is nothing unethical or immoral about enjoying these days because that is what they are intended for, marking a day of rest from work, school and other daily tribulations. There is a problem, though, when we completely ignore why we are gathered. It does us all a disservice not to have that discussion a few times a year.
So, on good old Turkey Day, tell those who raised you that you wouldn't be where you are without them. Recognize that if you have a meal, you are in a privileged position and that there are billions of people to help. Understand that many Native Americans were slaughtered in the development of our country, and do your best to understand their plight and show them respect.
Most importantly, enjoy your holiday. You can achieve that and come out a more circumspect person.

Derek Dissell is a sophomore Urban Studies major at CSU.

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