top five: holidays i don’t celebrate

I grew up in a nominally Christian household; we’re practicing, but we’re not one of those denominations where your religion becomes a full-time job, or it dictates the kind of haircut you can get or something. Normally I am super okay with this, but at certain times of year I have to admit there’s some stuff I miss out on – namely, awesome and outrageous holidays. Here is a list of the top five holidays (of any faith) that I kind of wish I could get in on.*

Passover. Obviously. I bend over backwards every year trying to get invited to seders, because they are the best freaking time ever. I love gefilte fish. I love matzoh ball soup. I love Jews. I love singing. I love being free. I love getting to celebrate all these things by drinking while screaming two-year-olds run around me in circles. I understand that some Christians celebrate Passover as well – which makes sense, theologically – but let’s be real, guys. We cannot pull this off in the same way. They are called God’s Chosen People for a reason.

Las Posadas. Okay, so this one actually is Christian. But it’s Latin American Catholic, and I’m about as WASPy as it gets, so I have no real chance of experiencing this. A friend who is Mexican Catholic, though, makes this sound like the awesomest day ever. “Oh yeah, that’s when I get to dress up as the Virgin Mary and just swagger around town; a huge parade full of people follows me and we all hang out and sing and just have kind of a baller time.” That’s cool, I guess. I’ll just be over here watching claymation Christmas specials and eating the stale Hershey’s Kisses out of my advent calendar.

Holi. This is the holiday that prompted this post. I realize it was actually the 11th of March, but my school just had our own rinky-dink little Holi thing this weekend. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I could handle this holiday the way it’s actually supposed to be celebrated – it’s kind of raucous and intense in India, and based on previous experience I am hesitant of giving strange men any pretext for touching me. But the concept is so fun and awesome! It makes so much sense! Christian holidays that celebrate good things are all like “Oh cool, Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s do something special, like – go to church!” Holi is like “Guys, Prahlad survived the demoness’s attempt to burn him alive! Also, spring happened! Let’s have a huge color fight with powdered dyes!” That is the right way to respond to a serendipitous event. Go Hindus!

Rosh Hashanah. Score one more for the Jews. I have only actually participated in this holiday starting this year, and my Jewish friends who were with me were pretty underwhelmed. We were far away from home, and far away from any other Jews, and the best we could do was scrounge around for some apples and honey. But honestly, despite (or maybe because of) all that, I thought it turned out really nice. We sat around together at dusk and shared honey and apples and some little kaju sweets and now that I look back, this year has in fact been a sweet one.

Ramadan. This one doesn’t have quite as much immediate appeal – I understand that there are a lot of fun holidays out there that don’t involve fasting. But take a closer look at this one. There are some really great things going on in Islam, and Ramadan highlights a lot of them. I mean, ostensibly Christianity also emphasizes charity to the poor and occasionally abstaining from things to focus better on God. But how this actually plays out is that maybe once a year or so you’ll give up chocolate for forty days so you feel good about yourself. Way to go, champ. But Ramadan takes that shit seriously. And best of all, the fact that it’s about charity and repentance and meditating on poverty doesn’t make it a total downer holiday, like Lent is. Iftars are wonderful. There are a lot of things I would do to get to hang out with a whole group of awesome Muslim people and eat figs and lentils and drink falooda or something – not eating all day is totally doable.

*There are some runner-ups from our friends in the frozen Northland of Scandinavia. 1) The Feast of St. Lucy, which I read about in one of those cultures-from-around-the-world books when I was little and was totes jealous of. 2) and most important: the Swedish Christmas goat. I guess that is not a holiday in and of itself, more just a custom, but still.  I think you set it on fire. Christmas in Sweden next year!

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