Archive for category official holidays


Yes, the forces that be have not scheduled any other celebrations today other than the holiday monster that is Thanksgiving. Though my family did our formal, giant meal two weeks ago before my brother left for boot camp, my mother couldn’t stay away from the kitchen. She prepared another turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, etc. (I’m especially glad she did the sweet potatoes, as it’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month.)

We set a place for my brother and even put some corn on his plate. Since he was little, he has always demanded frozen corn at Thanksgiving. Even this year he noticed his bowl of corn was missing from the table–amidst the hurried preparations, we’d left it in the microwave.

Anyway, ’twas a fabulous meal today. I’m still full, even though we ate at 1:00. Nap time.

Hope your T-day went just as well!


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Military Family Month

I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but November is Military Family Month. For the first time, this occasion directly applies to my family. P leaves for boot camp on Tuesday, so this weekend we got together with a handful of relatives and friends to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with him. My mother and I (though mostly my mother) made a giant, traditional holiday spread: turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cranberry pumpkin bread, rolls, salad, gravy. All of this was followed up by a choice of pecan pie, pumpkin pie or apple crisp. Afterward, none of us moved much.

It was funny to be making and eating a Thanksgiving meal while the rest of the world was just having a typical Sunday. No Macy’s Day parade on TV, no Black Friday tomorrow morning. It was like we were on our own plane of existence, participating in something important to our culture but in a way that somewhat separated us from it.

To me, it seems like military families do this constantly, as the military requires a great deal of flexibility. We don’t know when P will graduate from boot camp or if we’ll be able to see him at Christmas. We don’t know how long he’ll be in A school or where he’ll go from there. We don’t know the amount of access to communications he’ll have.

I can only imagine how difficult things are for the spouses and children of service members. Joining the military is, in many ways, the ultimate participation in American culture, yet it also requires a parallel sacrifice of “normal” American life in a variety of big and small ways.

Tonight was my goodbye to P until he’s done with boot camp. It was also my goodbye to my little brother as I know him and goodbye to my family’s structure as it has been until now. P is leaving to start his own life and is doing so in a big way, and it’s a bit of a self-check moment to realize he’s going to leave Wisconsin and see many different countries long before I will. I will no longer be the “worldly” sibling, and he’ll have lots of new experiences that I won’t be able to fully relate to. It’s a change in our relationship, which is not a bad thing, of course. It’s just the unknown, and it’s difficult to process at the same time as tryptophan.

I’m excited for P–I really am. I know this will be hard on my parents, but they are rallying behind this. I will too, though as a sibling, I’ll be a bit more distant. Nonetheless, this act of rallying, of supporting the one who enlisted, is what I’m guessing is the essence of  all military families. It’s what makes us important but sets us apart. Today, in my goodbye, I said hello to this new, nebulous role, and I find it a sign from the universe that this is happening to my parents and me during the month dedicated to remembering families like us.

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Veterans Day

Veterans Day has a unique significance for me this year. My younger brother, P, leaves for the Navy in a week. So really for the first time, I’m paying some attention to this holiday.

It’s not like P is the first family member to go into the military. Both of my grandfathers were in WWII, and an uncle made a career of the Air Force. But it’s different when it’s in your immediate family and in the present. I’m not worried, so much as just aware that this is a pretty big commitment. Unlike college, you can’t just drop out if things get rough. Unlike a typical job, you don’t just quit.

Since I’m obviously a communications-oriented soul, I thought a good way to show my support today would be to get involved with a communications-oriented initiative. Now, you have to understand, I’m a penny-pincher. A cheap-skate. I don’t spend money easily–just ask my parents or G. This is why I am car-less and in increasingly dire need of a new laptop. I am also an admitted skeptic when it comes to donating to charities. I suppose it’s the cynical journalism major in me–I even worked as a telemarketer for about three months, and I still have no mercy toward solicitors, no matter their cause.

But today is about honoring something that strikes close to home. And after my experiences yesterday with Forget Me Not Day, I thought a great way to celebrate today would be to contribute to Operation Uplink. Begun in 1996 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Operation Uplink provides free phone cards to deployed military personnel or veterans in the hospital. It also provides 14 Free Call Days, which allows those who are deployed to make free calls home from military morale centers or internet cafes in hundreds of overseas cities.


Operation Uplink’s website says more than three million calls have been provided during Free Call Days. This equals around 37 million free minutes, which is, if you think about it, a pretty major investment. As for the free phone cards, demand far out-paces supply, so it can take a month before a service member can receive a card. Each individual can only request one card per 60 days.

I guess I was surprised that military personnel have to pay for calls home. More accurately, it was simply an issue I’d never thought about before. And in time, I’m assuming internet-based voice chats will eventually take over, as indicated by Google’s offering of Google Voice invites to deployed service members and their families.

But plenty of men and women still have to purchase calling cards, and if you check the prices of military discount calling cards, the rate is almost $30  for a 55 minute card. That isn’t even a guaranteed rate–depending on where someone is deployed, the price of a minute versus actual talk time goes up by several cents.

So when my brother is deployed, I could buy a calling card specifically for him. And I probably still will. However, with Operation Uplink, I’ve just contributed roughly the same amount of cash in order to help give him 14 calls over the course of a year. I certainly don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, and I can guarantee you that it will be a rare holiday that gets me to donate money. But supporting this cause, today, seemed like good math. And doing this, today, most certainly feels like the right thing to do–for my family and for several others. Hoorah.

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Native American Heritage Month

Last night the library in my hometown was showing “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” a documentary about the tribe’s struggle against American conquest. I politely suggested (without any coercion or pleading of course) to my mother that she should attend. And she did! Below is her account of it, and by golly, it looks like she learned something.

When I was approached by S to give up my Monday night couch- potato viewing of “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” for “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” I was less than enthusiastic. But since a mother’s love for her offspring is an incredibly strong emotion, I couldn’t say no. Also since S did not tell her dear old parents about her double major in anthropology for several semesters, I guess I just wanted to prove something.

Just as February is Black History Month which most people now realize, November is Native American Heritage Month. American Indian Day was observed in 1915 in New York. Eventually, the entire month of November was proclaimed to be Native American Heritage month by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Having watched the PBS “We Shall Remain” series, I knew not to expect tribes of costumed characters in this type of documentary.  Instead, “Lost Nation: The Ioway” delivered a precious preservation of the Ioway people. As the filmmakers mentioned during the question and answer period, several of the people in the documentary have since died, but their stories have been recorded and will live on because of this film. I don’t ethically feel right about summarizing the documentary because if one is interested in this subject, the fee to purchase the DVD is quite nominal. However, here is the preview:


When I am not watching “Two and a Half Men” or “The Big Bang Theory,” I have on the cable news channels for background noise. Democrats and Republicans came to mind with this interesting tidbit from Monday’s experience, showing me that there are commonalities between my culture and the Ioway:

“The Bear Clan and the Buffalo Clan shared leadership of the tribe. They alternated through the year, so that during fall and winter the Bear Clan led the tribe, and during spring and summer the Buffalo Clan led.” (from Baxoje, the Ioway Nation)

After being privileged to attend the 97th public viewing of  “Lost Nation: The Ioway,” I did come away with a greater appreciation for Native American culture. If I am traveling through Minnesota near Pipestone National Monument, I will be sure to stop.  Ditto for the Living History Farms near Des Moines, Iowa. If our civilization should cease to be thousands of years from now, I can only hope there will be dedicated people in the future like Kelly and Tammy Rundle to preserve our history too.

–Mother of S

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Each year, the United Nations promotes the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Bulky name aside, the day is about remembering the “unpublicized victim of war“–the environment. The UN, which has officially recognized the day since 2002, established IDPEEWAC (they don’t use the acronym, but I’m going to get a hand cramp if I don’t) to: “strengthen awareness and vigorously prevent or condemn warfare that deliberately exploits or destroys the environment that is our most precious and life sustaining global public good.”

War takes an inarguable toll on the environment. Fire, poisoned air and water, and destroying crops or other terrain are all damaging to both people and nature. Yes, I understand this. My question is, how to honor a day dedicated to this issue? According to the UN in 2002, the answer is to achieve world peace: “In this regard, we have to avoid any further escalation of this situation through exploitation of environment in war and armed conflict. The only viable course of action, which would allow us to leave a sound planet to our heirs and their progeny, is to take preventive measures more vigorously and resolve disputes peacefully.”

Well, I wasn’t able to make it to Iraq or Afghanistan today as my schedule was just too tight. Since I couldn’t stop current wars in order to save the planet we already have, I decided to just create some new nature. Therefore, I planted a tree.

Bonsai kit

Ok, yes, it’s a small tree, but a tree nonetheless. My best friend, M, gave me a bonsai tree kit for my birthday in August, and I held off planting it because of Koda’s love for eating anything living and/or green. Bonsai, which is pronounced bone-sigh rather than banzai, is a form of art that means “tree in pot.” The art of bonsai arrived in Japan from China via Zen Buddhist monks and became prevalent among both the elite and general populations as an expression of the Japanese philosophy to reduce everything to essential, refined elements. Simply planting a tree in a shallow pot isn’t enough–apparently, I will have to “train” my tree to give the “illusion” of being an aged miniature tree (thanks Emperor’s Bonsai).

I’ve wanted a bonsai tree for ages, but I’ve always been a little wary of the time and effort involved. However, duty calls today, and I must not let down the UN. (By the way, I don’t mean to make light of this cause–I just think if an international organization is going to take the trouble to pass an actual resolution commemorating a day, they ought to make public some ways for global citizens to get involved. This appears to not be the case for IDPEEWAC.)

With a grand sense of purpose, I opened my bonsai kit and discovered a tiny booklet with a surprisingly complex set of directions. The six seeds provided have to be soaked in water for 24 hours, then placed on a paper towel, enclosed in a plastic bag and stored in the fridge for seven days. After that, I have to pour warm water over the peat disc included in the kit, and when it expands, I can plant the seeds.

This sounds relatively straightforward, but I have a hard time with directions. I pulled out the peat disc and the booklet, but I didn’t notice the tiny plastic bag with the seeds still in the bottom of the box. I thought the peat disc was in fact the seed packet, so I plopped it in a bowl of water before reading the complete set of directions. As the peat began to break apart, I commented that I wondered where exactly the seeds were and that I hoped they wouldn’t get lost when I pulled the mess out of the water.

G’s voice came from the living room: “I have the seeds.” And in fact he did, holding a tiny plastic bag up for me to sheepishly grab. I then pulled the disintegrating peat disc out of the water and laid it on a paper towel to dry.

The seeds are now floating in an old salt shaker. Rebuilding the environment is hard.

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Welcome to The Holidaze

The Holidaze is a blog dedicated to celebrating life’s less obvious occasions. As colder weather and darker days set in (The Holidaze is based in Madison, WI), what better way to stave off winter blues than to have a party, even a small one, every single day. Yup. Every day.

Why? Well, conveniently, there is a reason to celebrate every day because November, like most months, is full of holidays, both official and unofficial, traditional and decidedly wacky.

Official holidays are the ones we’ve been able to recite since childhood: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Most of these mean no school or work for public (and many private) employees. Okay, fine.

Unofficial holidays are where things get interesting. These occasions, which are celebrated by either many people or a few, have not been sanctioned by Congress as an official holiday, meaning schools don’t close and people still trudge to their cubicles. Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day–these are a few of the big ones that are heavily commercialized and celebrated.

But there are literally hundreds more unofficial holidays that most people are unaware of or choose to ignore. These holidays, like Cookie Monster Day and National Chicken Lady Day, are created by random people, organizations or even corporations. They are marketed to a niche audience, usually to build awareness for a particular cause, like National Diabetes Awareness Month, or just for the helluva it, like Plan Your Epitaph Day.

Some of these obscure unofficial holidays have a solid following, like National Novel Writing Month, and others likely have few or no celebrants on any given year (though as a woman, I am heavily interested in the expansion of the National Men Make Dinner Day). So I’ve decided to highlight lesser-known holidays, and some pretty well-known ones too, in a crusade to find daily happiness. If nothing else, these holidays will give me something to look forward to, and I don’t mind the cheesiness or kitzshy-ness—-after all, what is a holiday but an excuse to do something and feel something for a particular reason on a particular day?

I won’t claim that this blog will be comprehensive; there are far too many unofficial holidays for me to write about each of them. But I will post every day through November (and we’ll see beyond that) and I’ll post multiple times a day to cover as many holidays as possible.

So what exactly will I post? I will try to include some background to the days I highlight, but info won’t always be available, and what I’m more interested in highlighting are my personal experiences celebrating these holidays. I’m going to tell you how I celebrated Vegan Awareness Month (I am a very carnivorous person usually, I’m afraid) and what Married to a Scorpion Support Day has meant to me.

I’ll admit, most of my “research” on these holidays has come from random websites, since I haven’t yet come across an official text about unofficial holidays. But I’ll link to sources and you can determine for yourself whether I’ve chosen legit holidays or not. Either way, I hope to have a blast, and feel free to leave comments suggesting holidays or sharing your own experiences.


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