I want to make a holiday. It would be fun, for one thing, and kids would love me forever for getting them out of school. I wouldn’t name it after myself of course — no one would celebrate Will Day — and I hope I’m not that egocentric, anyway. I’m not a president, so it can’t just be my birthday, and I’m not so gung-ho about the idea as to arrange my own death.
So maybe I’ll just rename one that already exists. I mean, major holidays have plenty of names: Thanksgiving is Turkey Day (for those with no Providence to thank); Christmas is Kwanzaa or X-mas or winter break and gets confused with Hanukkah, or Chanukah, which is the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication; Easter has somehow become associated with bunnies (which carry their eggs in baskets, like some twisted evolutionary combination of marsupial and bird, and manage to leave them everywhere) and may or may not fall during spring break but is definitely the end of Lent and related to Passover. It must be heaven-on-earth for sociologists and religious studies majors. Or paradise-on-earth. Or maybe something involving fat men and elves. Anyway, my point is that it wouldn’t be very difficult to get my holiday assimilated into the cultural bazaar of celebrations.
People like to party, and they’re always happy for another excuse. To wit: awards shows. There are now awards shows for almost everything, with the possible exception of glass-blowing videos and anything musical that I might record. And what are they? Giant dress-up parties so people can get drunk. The lesson here is that my holiday will be gratefully embraced, at least by the TV-watching public, as long as it includes 1) cultural significance, 2) beer, or 3) both (see also: Oktoberfest).
But what if I want to create a holiday that has some meaning? What if I want to commemorate a major world event?
I could devise some symbolic rituals that I assume will be misunderstood in 50 years, include a somber part in the ceremony, and then get right to the partying. I mean, we won, right? A significant portion of the world could partake, which would seem to qualify it as a major holiday, and eventually the grisly parts of the actual event could be glossed over. (Movies like “Saving Private Ryan” might have to fade out of the picture, but that was the sort of thing most people only saw once, if at all.)
Judging from the current instantiations of other big-time holidays, the day itself would of course involve food — maybe a little something from each of the Allied nations’ cuisines — family togetherness (however you might define it), and time off from work or school. It wouldn’t technically be a “holy day,” but that idea of holiday is generally ignored, so no loss there.
Commercialization would be inevitable, so I might as well include some happy symbols that could go on plates, napkins, and collectibles. Also, I could harp on the idea that D-Day gave freedom to all those oppressed by Hitler; then advertisers could eventually make it into a “giving” holiday (which of course necessitates buying).
I don’t know what magical character would end up “giving” all of these things to children, but maybe it could be a female something or other, somewhat overweight so people would feel okay about eating a lot, and very cartoonish so she could be stylized on small, unusable gift items. At best, maybe anti-commercialism reactionaries 200 years down the road, when all this has settled into the general consciousness, would talk about “the true meaning of D-Day,” and actually think about the war and the historical day itself. Even this, perhaps, would become a cliche — every year, people would roll their eyes at such zealots. Pamphlets would be passed out (and conscientiously recycled) and traditions having something to do with the event would be revived (but only for their quaint sentimentality).
There would be much excitement among kids every year, anxious to see what they might get for D-Day. But would this huge celebration actually honor and remember those who participated in the pivotal event? Would a veteran of that day look at such a celebration and see it as influencing people’s lives?
Alternatively, I could just drop the whole idea of creating a holiday. I could reduce my dream to simply making sure that my children and friends understood the reality and significance of D-Day, celebrating the occasion in spirit each year by thinking about its consequences. I could disappoint schoolchildren everywhere and leave adults to find their own reasons to party. But that would be the cynical way to go about it. n