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This is a pretty difficult topic to write on, since I tend to love all of the holidays! As soon as it hits October, I am floored for every holiday between Halloween and New Years. Growing up, it was all about what I would get as gifts on these holidays or the fantastic family dinners. I get excited for Fall, the local Algonquin Mill celebration, the beauty of all the leaves changing, the smell of them burning in the evening, the streets teaming with Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween. I remember how exciting it was to wake up early on Christmas morning and sneak around the brightly lit tree, hoping not to wake up Mom, trying to guess what was in each colorful package with my older sister. I also remember the frustration of not being able to fall asleep because I was so excited. With all of these holidays, I know that everyone has their favorites. There are many different traditions that people follow but are we really celebrating these holiday traditions in the right way or even for the right reasons? Just the entire season would be my favorite time of year, but I shall focus on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Halloween, though it is known for its fun colors and costumes and gorging yourself on candy, actually started out as a Celtic holiday. The Celtics began celebrating this holiday because it was the last day of their winter solstice and apparently they just wanted an excuse to party since this also meant that they were done with the yearly harvesting time. Also, this day was used as a day to honor loved ones who had passed on, since it was said to be the day that the veil was lifted and the dead were able to once again walk with the living. The day after became celebrated as All Hallows Eve which marked the end of the dead being able to walk among us, at last until the next year. Nowadays we parade around in skimpy outfits in cold weather, attending parties to drink and be judged in our costumes. Speaking of drinking, my favorite Halloween myth would be that of the origin of pumpkins, or rather, Jack-O-Lanterns. The legend actually involves a hollowed turnip, the Devil, and a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack, the stereotypical Irish drunkard, was known as a manipulator and loved to trick people. This brought him into contact with the Devil who went to collect his soul after hearing of all of his bad deeds. But, Jack was sneaky. He managed to trick the devil up into a tree and trap him there by carving a holy symbol, a cross, into the trunk of that tree. The Devil, demanding his release, agreed to Jack’s demand that his soul would never be taken into Hell for all of his past misdeeds. This comes back to haunt poor Stingy Jack as when he does eventually die, he is not allowed into Heaven because of those same deeds, and the Devil had promised not to take him! He did, though, give Jack an ember, which Jack then carried around in a hollowed out turnip, doomed to roam the earth forever. Now, though, the turnip is a pumpkin and this year, my sister carved hers to make it look like it ate a Trick-or-Treater. Not exactly following tradition, is it? I would say that this would be a nice moralist story to tell our young ones since it shows that there are often bad consequences to bad actions.
My second favorite holiday would be Thanksgiving. My family has a three day tradition for this holiday, which I got to join when I turned 21. The night before Thanksgiving, we go to the local bar for the band that plays there every year. Then, we wake up the next morning, more than likely hung over, and cook our Thanksgiving dinners, attending the big family meal in our pajamas because we are so exhausted from the night before. Afterwards, we all lapse into a “turkey-coma” and wake up early the next morning for the biggest shopping day of the year! Now, I’m sure that this is not the same as everyone else’s traditions, and I know it is definitely not the same as the real reason for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, another harvest festival, like Halloween, is a holiday in which people are supposed to express how thankful they are for their family, friends, and everything else they have. Growing up, I remember coloring the Pilgrims and the turkeys made out of hands. This was also back when we were still allowed to pray in school, so our class would have our lunch of turkey slices and mashed potatoes and gravy and say a prayer together. A lot of the religious value behind this holiday has been lost. Lately, it seems to be all about the football game, the big meal, and the shopping ads for the next day race to Christmas. I am sure that if the holiday were observed properly, if we were asked each Thanksgiving to give a list of things that we are thankful for, people might just focus on the more important things in life: family and friends and their own idea of religion.
This brings me to Christmas which is another of my favorite holidays. I love the snow on the ground- as long as I don’t have to be in it- the colors everywhere, the Christmas carols on the store radios as you try to figure out what to get for whom. I like walking past all the houses and seeing the trees all lit up in their windows Wait a minute, lit up trees? Why do we even have the trees? Christmas, in my family, is all about getting the whole family together for dinner. Everyone is so focused on paying their bills that there is no real gift giving except for that of our company. We like to laugh and have fun and it’s normally pretty loud at whichever house we congregate in. The real focus of Christmas, though, is actually on religion, which my family does not really follow. This is the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, our savior. The star at the top of the gaily decorated tree is to depict that of the star over Bethlehem that guided the shepherds to where Jesus was born. The tree was established as part of our tradition by Martin Luther who used it as a symbol of the Tree of Life from the bible tale of the Garden of Eden. Another tradition that is attributed to Christmas is that of Santa Clause, or Father Christmas, or Saint Nick, my all-time favorite man. How could you not love a man that runs around in red pajamas and gives out candy and gifts? Even though he is so loveable, he is not the real reason behind Christmas and it would be nice to see that people, especially children, realize this. Instead, they spend the last ten or so days before Christmas hoping you and jolly old Santa forgot all their past transgressions so that they don’t get a lump of coal in their stockings. This does tend to make Christmas more fun, but I only hope that other people get that kind and warm-hearted feeling that I always get around Christmas. It is a time when people are nicer to everyone else and I think that it is the greatest time of year because of this.
Of all these holidays, I have my favorites and you have yours, all for different reasons. But in today’s society, are we really celebrating them in the right way? In watching the news it is plain to see that America is facing a problem with youth and their values, or lack thereof. Maybe if we tried to spread the old traditions of some of these holidays and to celebrate them right instead of letting them become so commercialized, today’s society would remember that there are actual reasons that we partake in these holidays, not just to be able to ask “So, what do you want for Christmas this year?”
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