Posts Tagged holidays

Poinsettia Day ends in National Cocoa Day

Today I finally began Christmas decorating. In honor of today’s holiday, a tribute to a red Mexican flower, I decided to try making some origami poinsettias. I hesitate to purchase real poinsettias since they’re toxic to kitties, and Koda is definitely a plant nibbler, so the origami version seemed like a good idea. I has it all planned out: I’d make a small “bouquet” and tape it to our front door.

Unfortunately, I got a little too ambitious and picked a particularly complicated poinsettia, which involved folding leaves and two layers of red flowers that integrate together. I should have guessed I’d have trouble: The entire set of directions was five pages long. By take number three on the first page of steps, it was clear things were not going to work out. Just as my frustration level was rising, G decided to take a study break so we could go get a Christmas tree. I was thrilled to push my paper jibbles aside.

We bundled up and trundled to my car, which had to be cleared off and shoveled out thanks to last night’s storm. The driver’s side lock also frozen, so G crawled in through the passenger side and kicked open the door.

We were thoroughly chilled by the time we finally got going, so we both wanted to make this trip as quick as possible. We headed to a tree lot by a mini golf range, and I can honestly say I’ve never hunted so intently and so quickly for a tree. It was so cold I was ready to break down and spring for a $50 one, and was about to, when we spotted a small, really reasonable Fraser. About 20 minutes later, our tree was bundled, paid for and in the backseat of my car (the back doors also required kicking). I couldn’t feel my hands, toes or cheeks.

Once home, the tree didn’t take long to put up, but then the great S-versus-Christmas lights battle 0f 2010 commenced. Just as I got our multi-colored strand wrapped around, I discovered it was burnt out. I finally managed to get a strand of all-green lights in place. I then hung up our modest amount of ornaments, which Koda kept attacking. By the time I was done, I was cranky and decidedly un-festive. And I was still cold.

G noticed. “It’s cocoa day, right?” he asked and then slipped into the kitchen. When he came back, he had a mug of Ghirardelli hot chocolate, complete with cinnamon, nutmeg, whipped cream and biscotti. It was so decadent it was ridiculous. And so delish.

He lit pretty much every candle we own, turned down the lights and turned up some Christmas music on Pandora. Now I’m curled up, looking at my decorated tree and decorated living room and feeling back in the holiday spirit.

And right in the center of my tree is a homemade poinsettia ornament.

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All Saints’ Day

Halloween 2009 was terrible. And considering Halloween in Madison, Wisconsin, is often known as one of the best Halloween party towns in the country, well, you know I messed up. My costume was great, don’t get me wrong. I was Crazy Cat Lady with poofy hair and a tan jacket appliquéd with cats and butterflies. I tied a grand total of five stuffed cats on various body parts and topped off the look with orange sunglasses that matched orange capri pants tucked into knee-high yellow leather boots. So I looked great. Exactly as I was supposed to in order to properly channel the fugliness of a Cat Lady.

However, in Madison, females lean more toward Sexy Bee and Slutty Nun. So I just looked homeless rather than ready for a night on the town–a misfire I should have but did not anticipate.

Okay, an ugly costume wouldn’t have been a guaranteed death knell except for the tragic fact that I spent the night at a house party with much younger people, therefore looking especially homeless and untouchable. This one wasn’t totally my fault. I thought I would know more people at this particular party. Wrong. My group, which included college seniors, graduate students and me, a recent grad, ended up spending forever at a  party with lots of what turned out to be freshman and sophomore Sexy Bees and Dick in a Boxes. Worst of all, the house owners, who are actually nice guys who just happen to have a preppy web of acquaintances, opted for the cheapest beer available for their kegs. Milwaukee’s Best. Beast.

My Halloween spirit, which is usually insatiable, deflated faster than a bee sting after an EpiPen injection. I came home brooding about how to better channel the world of the dead before the weekend’s end, and since slumming with demons didn’t do it, I opted to head to church.

I live a couple of blocks from the historic First Unitarian Society, which has a historic meeting house designed by that Midwestern god Frank Lloyd Wright. Seriously, people in Wisconsin lose their minds over FLW stuff, so I’ve been aware of the Unitarian church for years, but as a good little Lutheran, I’d never been.

All Saints’ Day, which you may or may not know, is a Catholic holiday originally celebrated in May. The spring celebration was based on the ancient Roman Festival of the Lemures, which involved ceremonies to exorcise the malevolent spirits of the dead from homes. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

The festival was tweaked to fit Christianity when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and to all the saints during the festival in 609 or 610. Another pope, Gregory III, shifted All Saints’ Day to November during the 700s in order to piggyback on the Celtic harvest and spiritual festival of Samhain. This piggy backing was supposed to eventually result in the celebration of only All Saints’ Day, but Samhain persisted, evolving into All Hallow’s Eve, and of course, Halloween. (Wikipedia strikes again.)

All Saints’ Day, which commemorates all recognized saints and those who have made it through the Pearly Gates, has remained a relatively small-scale religious holiday. I’m not Catholic and a Catholic church is not within a couple of blocks, so First Unitarian Society became the church of choice for me to celebrate All Saints’ this morning.

Again, I was raised Lutheran, though I’ve totally lapsed both in practice and in some ways, beliefs. So the Unitarian Univeralist environment was really different for me–no crosses on the walls, no Bibles in the worship area. Instead, the minister and associate ministers just talked about death.

Heaven and the afterlife were not the emphases of the service. Instead, a minister spoke to children about how heaven may or may not exist and either way, it is unknowable. So perhaps the better thing to keep in mind when a pet or relative dies is how they become a part of the Earth, helping to make the flowers grow.

The de-emphasis on fate and God as a part of death and the added emphasis on personal agency in death (the UU denomination is the only to have openly advocated for death with dignity, according to today’s minister) and the return-to-nature idea is an interesting twist on today’s holiday. As the handy little pamphlet “Who We Are: Unitarian Universalists” says: “In the end religious authority lies not in a book, person, or institution, but in ourselves.” So today I’m my own saint, and I get to celebrate being right where I am on this planet rather than worry too much about the unknowable heaven.

It was relieving, after last night’s party fail, to have someone say more or less that it’s okay to opt out of another, much more cosmic, popularity contest. After all, St. Peter’s book is probably the ultimate guest list.

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November is for Novelists

To kick off this blog, I’m celebrating not one or two, but three writing-related holidays. November 1 is National Author’s Day and National Family Literacy Day, both. of which seem to have garnered only a small amount of attention in the media and blogosphere. However, thousands of people are celebrating the third holiday: the kick-off for National Novel Writing Month, a non-profit initiative that encourages people to write a 50,000 word novel from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. Nanowrimo is in its 11th year, and according to the website’s history page:

The very first NaNoWriMo took place in July, 1999, in the San Francisco Bay Area. That first year there were 21 of us, and our July noveling binge had little to do with any ambitions we might have harbored on the literary front. Nor did it reflect any hopes we had about tapping more fully into our creative selves. No, we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twentysomethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.

I tried Nanowrimo once while in college. I failed abysmally to finish a story about a struggling writer. Hmm. I’m trying again this year, though I may struggle to stay committed to both Nanowrimo and The Holidaze.

Anyway, back to National Family Literacy Day. I stopped home yesterday to collect some stuffed cats and a fugly jacket for my Halloween costume (Crazy Cat Lady–it was tremendous). My mom has steadily been converting my old bedroom into a library, and her latest efforts have been in setting up white bookshelves along the walls. I guess you don’t realize just how many books are lurking under your bed, in your closets, on the kitchen table, etc., until you see them displayed somewhat orderly on shelves. I grew up in a house with a lot of books. A lot. All were purchased by my mother, the only reader in the house (besides me). In addition to her bookworm tendencies, she is also an avid rummage sale hunter, and the two interests have resulted in a formidable book collection, mainly of women’s lit and, to a lesser extent, literary fiction along with dozens of garden books, food-related books and other non-fiction.

My book interests lean more toward drama and literary fiction, so our tastes don’t always match up. However, my mother knows how to find books that do appeal to me, so going home is often like raiding a bookstore, and yesterday was no different. I returned to Madison with a stack of novels, including Julie and Julia and several Barbara Kingsolver novels. (And since I now possess almost all of Kingsolver’s works, I think I’m covered for National Author’s Day!)

Without my mom as an example, who knows if I would have gotten into reading, and by extension, writing. Most definitely, her willingness to buy books and have books around helped. I think one strong family member who is willing to support reading, even against protests that stacks of books create a lot of clutter, can make a difference toward the literacy of an entire family.

So that’s my story for National Family Literacy Day. Thanks, Mom!

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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.

Cheers!
S.K.

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