Charles McCollum

Charles McCollum

A Thanksgiving guest at my house made a comment I can relate to.

“I’m not much of a holiday guy,” he said amid the clatter of dishes and canine excitement as we were clearing off the dinner table.

No offense to my wife, Anita, who spent the good part of two days making a fabulous Thanksgiving feast and does many other things to bring “special occasions” to life at our home, but I’m not much of a holiday guy either.

I just don’t get into rites and rituals of any sort and frankly can’t understand why anyone ever felt the need lock them down on a calendar. To me, one day is the same as the next, and every day holds the same potential for wonder, disaster, boredom, fun or whatever happens to arise.

Nature takes no holidays. Recurring yearly observances are entirely a human construct, unless you want to count astronomical alignments as the natural world’s holidays of a sort.

And as far as Thanksgiving goes: Yes, it’s nice that our culture sets aside a time to be thankful, a time to look out for one another and make sure everyone is fed. Honestly, though, why don’t we do all of this every day — especially the look-out-for-one-another part? As the story goes, Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in an act of fellowship with Native Americans, and look how that turned out.

You’re probably now expecting a tirade about the commercialism of Christmas and other popular American holidays, but that’s actually not what I’m driving at here. I’m simply saying that a day is a day is a day.

Even as a child I had this perspective, and it always made me feel a bit like a stranger in a strange land. I remember thinking, for example, that New Year’s celebrations were the most ridiculous and arbitrary thing in the world (and that was before I even had the word “arbitrary” in my vocabulary). “Isn’t every day the beginning of a new year or a new century?” I remember thinking. “How does the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1967, really offer so much more promise than the same clock position the day before or after? And good God, are we really supposed to be jumping up and down with excitement when that stupid ball drops in Times Square?”

Of course, mere apathy about holidays is different than the dread some people have at this time of year, when Thanksgiving and Christmas loom so large with all their expectations. Looking online, I see this dread is rampant. Less common are people like me who just don’t get the entire paradigm of having holidays.

I found one blogger, however, who articulated this position well in a small rant about Memorial Day, of all things.

“I don’t have anything against Memorial Day,” wrote Pamula Redman Satran on HuffPost. “As holidays go, it’s one of the best: nothing to buy, no obligatory decorations or meals or activities to march everybody through. The problem is I hate all holidays. Yes, even Christmas. Ugh, especially Halloween. I hate, first of all, feeling like if I don’t want to do something completely different from what I ordinarily do, I’m some kind of freak. I like what I ordinarily do. What I ordinarily do is exactly what I want.”

I couldn’t agree more, and while we’re at it, let’s add birthdays to the list.

You know how the staff at restaurants gathers around the table of a birthday boy or girl to regale them with song? My favorite take on this practice is the quick and dirty little ditty, “This is your birthday song. It won’t be very long. See ya.” Give the occasion a nod and move on, I say. Enjoy the day for what it is, not for what some calendar established by papal edict to control the populace in feudal times says it should be.

All of which brings up how this celebration killjoy decided to make Groundhog Day his favorite holiday each year — not that I go out of my way to observe it, which is the point.

The great thing about Groundhog Day is that nobody except those silly folk in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania, is expected to give anything, receive anything, wear anything special, stay up late, wake up early, smile, cry, salute, schmooze … whatever.

If you forget it’s Groundhog Day, no biggie. Check your phone to see if Phil saw his shadow (if you even care) or catch it next year.

When I gave this spiel to some fellow Herald Journal staff members several years ago, they started bringing doughnuts to the office every Feb. 2 to help me “celebrate.” It’s been fun, but in actuality they are violating the spirit of the occasion by creating a ritual around it.

That’s OK, guys, I’ll overlook this breach of holiday etiquette since it’s Groundhog Day, after all, and that means staying chill.

In newsrooms, a few employees always have to work on holidays, and maybe that’s another reason I’ve been less likely than a lot of people to embrace those special squares on the Gregorian calendar.

At The Herald Journal, I’ve worked every Christmas since coming to Logan in 1995 and many Christmases at newspapers before that. Don’t feel sorry for me, though, because I’ve never felt in the least put out by it. The shift doesn’t start until late afternoon anyway, long after the presents are opened and the pictures are taken. It’s a chance to get out of the house after all the gift-giving “joy” has morphed into a kind of mid-winter afternoon funk.

All of this reminds me that we had another house guest some years ago who, like our friend this Thanksgiving, was simply not into holidays. She was a Native American raised on the Navajo reservation in Arizona who’d never celebrated Christmas. We tried our best to keep that year’s observance low key and get her through it without social discomfort.

Neither she nor I could wait for the day to end so we could get a holiday from the holiday.

Charlie McCollum is the managing editor of The Herald Journal. He can be reached at cmccollum@hjnews.com or 435-792-7220.

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