Thanks for the cards and letters--Billy is fine; he is just wrapped up in the grad school application process. Of course, after that, we're going to New Orleans, and if you think you're going to get a blogpost from him from down there, you don't know Billy.
I was out at Costco the other night, wandering around looking for celery and other types of roughage to support my current eating regimen, when I looked into a refrigerator case and saw package after package of corned beef. And then I knew immediately that it was time for me to make corned beef, what with St. Patrick's Day less than a week away.
There's nothing Irish about me.
But I do love holidays, and so I have a fairly-standard St. Patrick's Day tradition of simmering a corned beef for several hours until tender, then smearing a mustard-apricot sauce on it, and baking it until that outside gets a bit carmelized and crisp at the edges. Then I buy some good rye bread, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and invite a bunch of people over to make Reuben sandwiches. I honor the holiday, but I make it my own, because I do love holidays and traditions.
I'm not a whiskey drinker--we currently have three gift bottles sitting on our bar largely unused. But I do like the idea, the concept, the experience of sipping a Mint Julep during or around the Kentucky Derby, especially since my wife has a set of silver metal Derby glasses, and the drink is so much better in one of those, as the ice in the drink condenses and freezes on the outside of the cup as well.
You see where I'm headed.
Some people might claim, given the good/evil-fire/ice-yin/yang-Heaven/Hell-and-unending-other--necessary-dichotomies theory of life, that if we had more holidays, holidays would lose their meaning and they would all seem the same.
I could not disagree more. I am fully in favor of finding more holidays and celebrating them more fully! Sure, I love all of the big ones, but I try to get Mardi Gras in each year, as well as St. Patty's. I have traditions for the 4th of July, Halloween, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. I've made playlists for Black History Month and have made dumplings for Chinese New Year. I like how, in my world, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have become two separate holidays. I wish I were actively involved in more. So downplay holidays? Have holidays that you declare that you "don't really like"? Well, I just don't get that at all.
One need only look to New Orleans to disprove this outlook easily. There is a city where you would be hard-pressed to look at a local calendar and not find a week without some kind of festival, probably several, going on. And if you've been there, you know that the overabundance of festivities diminishes none of the enthusiasm that locals have for all of the smaller "fests" that go on--French Quarter festival, Oak St. Po-Boy festival, Voodoofest to name just a few.
As you can already see, I also open up the idea of "holiday" to include most any kind of celebration. Yearly-repeated traditions are like holidays, whether they make it onto Hallmark calendars or not. And so, National Taco Day or Read-A-Book Week or whatever hold a lot of appeal for me, if I could keep up with them.
But that isn't the point. The point is a simple one, and one that is often forgotten or, as I've suggested above, simply not believed. And that is that life needs more celebrations, more commemorations, more festive traditions, more made-up holidays, more gatherings. More raises one's outlook on things, I believe; it doesn't make one wish for more balance between celebration and its opposites.