Are There Too Many Holidays?

Official celebrations for just about anything imaginable are picking our pockets and increasing our stress.

Old, vintage-style photo of revelers at a New Year's Eve parter.

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You’ve gotta love holidays. Many people say that. I’m not one of them. I acknowledge holidays and I honor your right to celebrate them, including the truly absurd ones. But I don’t have to embrace them. You cannot make me.

Among other things, we have way too many: official national holidays, religious holidays, and all those kooky holidays invented mainly to enrich merchants. You want to go all gooey over National Pepperoni Pizza Day? Fine, but don’t expect me to send you a greeting card.

So here we are, with the big winter holidays just behind us. (And I ask you, seriously, is Christmas still a religious holiday in America or is it chiefly a gift-giving festival that drives personal debt?) Valentine’s Day — not to be confused with Sweetest Day, which is the third Saturday in October — is straight ahead. Now, let’s be real: V-Day has devolved into little more than an excuse to sell massive quantities of chocolates and roses, mostly to guilt-ridden men. Do you naively believe it is mainly intended to applaud romance?

You see where I’m going here? So many of our holidays are a crock. And our best one, Thanksgiving, sort of gets lost amid all the hoo-ha that precedes the month of Christmas (sometimes known as December).

Our national affection for holidays large, small, and preposterous has grown so ludicrous that today you can even invent one and purchase rights to it. You heard me correctly. A company called National Day Calendar will gladly promote your holiday nationally, and it’s good at doing that. At one point the getting-in fee was $1,500; the company won’t disclose what it charges nowadays.

Indeed, it’s the proliferation of fake holidays that overwhelms the few legitimate ones. Arbor Day, which I regard as meaningful if minor, gets crowded out in the public’s mind by the silliness of Hairball Awareness Day, Hug a Plumber Day, National Prime Rib Day, and the like. The lame-o holiday industry is thriving. There’s no chance it’s going to sputter anytime soon.

You want to go all gooey over National Pepperoni Pizza Day? Fine, but don’t expect me to send you a greeting card.

Some statistics: Ranking holidays by the most cards mailed, Christmas easily lands in first place (151 million); Valentine’s Day, second; Mother’s Day, third. The shocker is that Halloween comes in sixth (17 million cards sent). Really, people share Halloween greetings in those numbers?

Let’s take a look at the holidays that most efficiently pick our pockets. Not surprisingly, Christmas season again holds first position ($626.1 billion spent, according to a recent tally); Easter comes in a few places down at $16.4 billion, just barely ahead of the Super Bowl, which, yes, is regarded as a holiday by industry watchers. Father’s Day limps in at $12.7 billion. That’s roughly half of what Americans lay out for Mother’s Day. Ah, poor dads.

Another un-fun thing about holidays is that they can trigger stress. No one likes stress. But many of the bigger holidays, no matter how you try to avoid it, require some “family time.” To be especially dreaded are sleepovers. I’ve seen one study that says 65 percent of respondents were decidedly opposed to staying at a relative’s home overnight during a holiday event. My question: Only 65 percent?

Even worse, if you can avoid visiting with family, you may be stuck spending time with your very own self. Talk about unpleasant! “That’s the problem with holidays: they give you time to reflect on life,” a writer whom I respect recently wrote in a daily paper. “Reflecting on life can soon spin out of ­control.”

So if you are someone who, like me, believes we are appallingly over-holiday’d, I ask you to be patient for just a bit. We can protest, in unison, on March 7 — National Be Heard Day.

In the last issue, Cable Neuhaus wrote about the troubling rise of noise pollution.

This article is featured in the January/February 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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