Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrating Independence

July 4th, 2014

When you live in a foreign country, some of the holidays leave you a little bewildered. I can never remember which end of summer Memorial Day or Labor Day falls. Presidents Day is for celebrating presidents, I guess, good or bad.  Thanksgiving is a whole story in itself and when I first came to this country I refused to celebrate it in deference to the Native Americans and the hyprocrisy of celebrating a people whose help you sought and then turned around and eliminated. But I eventually had to concede, because whatever its roots, it is nowadays a celebration of family and get-togethers, so how can you fault that?
Today, Fourth of July, puts me in the awkward position of living among a nation that is celebrating the absence of British people like myself.
Valentines Day is the same here, but different. In Britain, Valentines is only for lovers or would-be lovers. None of this sending your mother a Valentines card, because that would just be downright weird. Growing up, it was the day no one sent you a card because no one fancied you. Even though you waited all day for a Valentines card to pop up in unexpected places, or a declaration of love from out of the blue, nothing came but the sorry realisation that love was not on the cards. The song by Janis Ian called 17 must have been written on just such a day.
And then being an ex-pat, I miss the holidays I have had to give up. There's Guy Fawkes, pretty hypocritical itself, that celebrates the government in Westminster, which for reasons of nationality, I have come to regard as Westmonster. It's our bonfire and fireworks day, magical for a child whose birthday was only two days down the road. Autumn just needs a bonfire - the smells all go together - and that is ours.
And then there's good old Boxing Day. Come on, folks, you can't have Christmas Day and then back to work as usual. You need a buffer zone. You need Boxing Day so you can do the whole thing (minus the presents) over again.  All the family that you didn't necessarily want over on Christmas Day can come and have another round of turkey and Christmas pud.
Then there's those spurious holidays, like Halloween and Easter, so obviously pagan, but ones the church tried to dress up in monkish outfits to varying degrees of success.  What does anyone think rolling eggs down a hill or celebrating little chicks and rabbits is all about? Tack on a cross and you've got hot cross buns, but it ain't anything to do with Christianity.

Halloween - well, they tried (All Hallows Eve), but there's not much you can do about a celebration of witches and ghouls. It was and ever shall be the Day of the Dead, the time when the veil between the living and the dead gets thin enough for a person to peer through. In Gaelic it is Samhain, and it figures in my novel series a lot. I have neighbours that call it The Devil's Birthday. Well, maybe it is, but The Horned One was a benevolent fellow in the pagan way of looking at things, and so was the witch.  Same goes for the black cat, for Pete's sake, whoever Pete may be. All of these icons got stood on their heads by the church, so I don't mind celebrating the birthday of the Horned God, no matter what country I live in.
I'll take Halloween and Boxing Day. The rest can go to the devil.

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