The holiday season (aka the shopping season) in America starts with Thanksgiving and ends with New Years day. In a bizarre side-effect of commercialization of Christmas, a number of other holidays have sprung up in prominence as a way to make everyone (no matter your beliefs) feel the holiday cheer (and spend money). For example, picture left is a representative of the Pastafarian religion celebrating their holy day with the ambiguous but easy-to-remember name of “Holiday”.
The following are some holidays I’m aware of that are the Apples and Google to the Microsoft that is Christmas.
The Jewish Holiday
Coming from a family of strongly rooted Jewish heritage, I have to say that Hanukkah used to be a source of embarrassment to me on a philosophical level. It’s not a major Jewish holiday and has gained prominence solely (it seems) as a way for Jewish families to participate in Christmas-style gift giving. In recent years though I’ve come to accept that holidays are often less about some particular message (religious or otherwise) but more about an excuse to spend time with friends and family. So whatever you call it, it’s fine with me.
The Atheist Holidays
Let’s be honest, most of the funniest people on this planet are all atheist or at least take a very satirical view towards organized religion. So it’s no surprise that there is a great variety of holidays for the atheists among us to choose:
- Festivus: Popularized by Seinfeld, it’s a secular holiday built on the exact opposite of what commercialization has made of Christmas. Instead of a Christmas tree there is a Festivus pole. There’s the Airing of Grievances, Feats of Strength, and of course the Festivus miracles which is the term used for easily-explainable events.
- Newtonmas: December 25th is the birthday of Isaac Newton under the old Julian calendar. This is a popular holiday among skeptics as a parody of the religious view of the natural world. Jesus, to many, is an icon (perhaps unjustly) of unscientific thinking, and relying on faith vs reason in understanding the workings of our mind, society, and the universe.
- Holiday: A little know, but my favorite holiday in terms of comedic value is called simply “Holiday”, and is the Christmas competitor from the “religion” of Pastafarianism (officially called the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). It does not take place on a specific date and does not have any requirements, because Pastafarians “reject formalism”.
The Black History Holiday
I never liked Kwanza. I know I’m a white guy, so my opinion should theoretically not matter on this subject, but I’ll voice it anyway. It has evolved into a positive holiday of celebrating African American heritage and unity. However, it was born on a message of segregation as an anti-Christmas anti-white holiday. I think it served its purpose well as part of the civil rights struggle of the 60s, but beyond that it seems more like a symbol of separation than unity. That’s probably why only about 1 percent of African Americans celebrate it. I was always a believer in the Martin Luther King Jr message of unity vs the Malcom X’s message of separation. This holiday to me is unfortunately too intricately connected to the history of the latter, but perhaps that will change with the passing of time.
The Capitalist Holiday
The holiday season is a holiday in itself for the capitalists. If you have products to sell, this is a good time to sell it. In just online shopping, there’s $35 billion of American dollars on the line every year. That’s a reason for business owners to be filled with cheer, even in difficult economic times.