- Holidays and Celebrations
The Disappearing American Holidays
The War against American Holidays
“Fifty weeks thou shalt work, and two weeks shall be thy vacation. Sunday shall be a day of rest, and fourteen other days in the year shall be reserved and observed as days of remembrance or celebration”. As a youth growing up in the nineteen sixties, I thought such a quote was written in stone somewhere in a sacred site on American history. In retrospect, it should have been recorded with the enforcement of law to protect it from being changed or manipulated.
There was a time in America, now almost forgotten, where observances of holidays fell according to a calendar, and not a business arrangement. There are not many of us left alive now who remember when all of this fuss over leisure days off began, but the insidious intent over time has proved to be about more working days, and a greater obligation for employees to be available.
The first battle began in the early nineteen seventies, and the issue revolved around overcoming the so called “blue laws”, that prevented businesses from being open on Sundays. The battlefield was in Oxford Valley, Pennsylvania, where a brand new multi-level shopping mall was in operation, but because of the high cost of rents, the mall owners and businessmen complained that they needed to be open seven days per week to make a profit. Counter to this, ugly rumors that the mall was architecturally unsound began to circulate through gossip. The story was that engineers believed that too much weight on the upper level would cause the walkways to collapse. The talk was meant to frighten people and keep shoppers away so that the mall would fail.
On the opposite side, the “blue laws” were presented as old fashioned, and still in place due to a culture of people not in step with the requirements of a modern society. The symbol that we were shown on television and newspapers was of the Pennsylvania Dutch of Lancaster County. Images of a slow- paced society, still using horses and buggies, and wearing straw hats penetrated every corner. Religion was to blame for preventing business from flourishing. The logicians broadcast that dropping blue law requirements would allow business to make even more, and therefore, give more back to the community. The stories created mixed opinion. There were many who wanted the Sunday laws removed and hoped it would be brought to a vote. The mall corporation could not wait this out, and eventually it was decided to defy the blue laws. First because the fines were low, not having been updated in many years, second, being open on Sunday could not be sufficiently enforced due to a lack of Bucks County, Pennsylvania licensing personnel. So in the beginning, fines were paid and the mall was open on Sundays.
Now I was one of those shoppers who absolutely loved the idea that I had somewhere to go on Sundays. I was tired of sitting at home after church, rummaging through the Sunday Inquirer and boring programs on television. My family was not sports minded, and therefore we were never in anticipation of a major sporting event. So, I would drive to the mall with my friends and we would hang out at the food court and perhaps buy a few items before we left. The rumors about the mall collapsing proved to be false. It was a modern and clean facility, and it was a fun place to spend your time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. At the time, it seemed it was the right thing to do, but I cannot say that now.
Of course, I could not understand at the time that having won one battle in the kingdom of business would mean a larger war against the American worker and the sanctity of the family structure that our country had become accustomed to model. My family was small. I was an only child, and both father and mother had been working for many years. The one income family was sufficient at the time to support a wife at home and the care of child rearing that included education. A car was owned by nearly all middle aged neighbors on the block where I lived, and quite a few homes had the new color televisions. (Ours did not). Ambition for something greater did not enter our minds in general, because times were prosperous and life was simple with modern inventions that allowed for less physical labor and especially allowed wives to have more leisure time for other activities. A lot of that activity was transferred to a “part-time” job.
The next assault of course, was the family economic structure. The presence of women in the workplace was already significant when I began working in an insurance agency in nineteen seventy three. Offices with middle managers abounded and one manager would have a personal secretary and perhaps as many as two others to handle filing and answer phone calls. The calculator had not been introduced to speed quotations and it was only very recently that IBM electric “speed ball” models of typewriters were a part of a secretary’s desk. My department still used an old fashioned adding machine, and the addressograph department used metal address files mounted into machines to do mass mailings. To be employed during this era was easy and women began to fill roles in lower management as men were displaced or retired. Everything seemed to be well, but this proved to be an illusion.
In nineteen seventy four the slide in the economy began to affect local markets. The United States as a producer around the world was in decline and the demand for Oil was up. Business started to decline and cutbacks were a part of the scenario. Because the high cost of heat and air conditioning became central to the cost of doing business, an idea was proposed to allocate certain holidays to be altered to be observed on Mondays. This seemed to be a great idea at the time. The Monday holiday meant that businesses could save money on fuel costs and in turn the employees would be able to have a “three day weekend” and therefore the ability to take a mini-vacation that would fit in well with owners of mountain cabins or shore property. They would now have more time to devote to their personal retreat centers. Yes, this seemed like a good idea and the publicity reflected the “everyone wins” idea behind this move. The American worker agreed to this new concept, and certain holidays were altered to Mondays. This included Memorial and Labor days, two holidays that centered on cook-outs and solemn ceremonies central to the appreciation of the American military and especially more time to be spent with family. Independence Day remained because it was a designated date of importance. Thanksgiving remained on the last Thursday of the month and Christmas day was still December the twenty fifth and of course New Year’s Day was always on January the first.
The assault centered on the “minor” holidays. The American calendar celebrated two great Presidents in the life of our nation, President Lincoln on February 12th and the father of our country, President Washington on February 22nd. These days were sacrosanct to the American psyche for many years because they were our two greatest Presidents in the eyes of the nation. But ever since the tragedy of the loss of President Kennedy in nineteen sixty three, the opinion of what constitutes the greatness of a President began to be expanded. The Kennedy assassination resulted in schools being renamed in his honor, streets and plazas now became “Kennedy” namesakes, and the American half-dollar was re-designed and issued with John F. Kennedy on the front. The nation was in grief, and the grief only became worse. The assassination of Martin Luther King in nineteen sixty eight, led to the desire to observe other prominent Americans other than a President for a solemn observance of a holiday.
The solution to this problem was to create one celebratory day for Presidents in lieu of the two “bank holidays” as they were called. The new holiday was made to fit the Monday trend, resulting in a three day weekend once again in the middle of February. We essentially “lost” two February holidays and now were reduced to one, where you could celebrate Milliard Fillmore day or Zachary Taylor day now because all Presidents could be included under the legal interpretation. The newspaper advertisement business made adjustments to their sales and now “President’s Day” would become another chance for shoppers to “save money”. The stores were open, and they were open early for customer convenience. During the Clinton administration, the newspapers even presented a picture of Hillary Clinton over the words “President’s Day sale”.
The clamor for an observance day for Dr. Martin Luther King continued, and eventually the inclusion was made into law. This “new” holiday was not accepted by every state and many still are required to work on that day. The attitude in the beginning was negative on behalf of some parts of the community. Corporations, who were influencing our government more with each passing year, did not like the idea of closing down for yet another holiday in the calendar, but the day eventually evolved as a day for volunteerism and this fit in well with the corporate agenda, to spend the day as Doctor King would have probably appreciated, a day where corporate people could participate in cleaning up parts of their community and in the construction of playgrounds and community centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Religious groups backed this new concept as well. It seemed to be a positive move.
The next phase of the disintegration of respect for American holidays would resemble something out of a George Orwell novel. In this case, our Ministry of Truth would be the liberal influence working on the puritan style traditions of admiration for our leadership. The first chips at the wall of respect began with the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. Those of us who were around back then remember all of the press and political pressure that eventually led to the resignation of our President. The Democratic party had been soundly defeated and the liberal wing of the party had just experienced the humiliation of choosing a candidate who ran on a platform of removing the American military presence in Vietnam within ninety days, expressed in McGovern’s “Come Home America” speech in nineteen seventy two. Why the offices at the Watergate hotel needed to be burglarized seems silly in consideration of the election results, but revenge was in the air and the liberal element seized this opportunity to take down Nixon.
The end result was more than the loss of a serving President, it was the loss of respect for the office of the Presidency that went with it. Now it was time for the re-write of American History to come to the fore. Under the auspices of destroying the “God directed” aspects of our leadership, editors of our History textbooks for upcoming young citizens began to change the way we interpret personalities. It was expected that leaders, even the ones who built this nation, were suddenly responsible for a twentieth century social consciousness, and “should have known” that elements in their society, especially slavery and relations with minorities, were irresponsible, and therefore unworthy of our respect. Every former leader who was respected was put under a microscope. We even began to “dig up the dirt” on Kennedy, now more interested in centering on their lack of morality than political efficiency. What scandals were discovered? President Washington owned slaves.
President Thomas Jefferson, due to the publication of an extremely irresponsible book by Fawn Brodie, implied that Jefferson engaged in sexual relations with one of his slaves. What is overlooked at the time is the moral atmosphere that our politicians were required to operate in as representatives of the United States. Facts are discounted or just ignored for the sake of a theory. In Jefferson’ case, you have the testimony of the surviving Monticello Male household slave who specifically addresses the very point in “Memories of a Monticello Slave” that it was another member of the Jefferson family that frequented the estate and lived with the slave in her residence on the Jefferson property and had carnal knowledge.
The Christian tradition of naming children after Apostles, and first born children being named the same as their fathers affected this situation in records, as there were many relations named Thomas in the family. One of these was directly implicated. You also have to consider that Jefferson had two daughters with him both at home and abroad, and the claim by Brodie of a relationship in France would have meant that the woman in question was only ten years old at the time! Can you imagine if that had hit the newspapers of the day? It was bad enough that Jefferson was scandalized by a local newspaper reporter who was constantly trying to destroy his reputation, and I can’t imagine Mr. Jefferson trying to do something on the sly under the constant watch of newsmen of the period. It should be noted that Jefferson was an early widower and he DID make passes at a married woman during his tenure of service with the United States Government, her name was Maria Causeway and his advances led to an eventual estrangement. In answer to those who claim Jefferson has black ancestors, the Jefferson family definitely does, due to the cousin on the estate. The direct connection or link through DNA confirms this and has already been determined. It is not sufficient, in the opinion of serious Jeffersonian scholars such as Merrill Peterson or Dumas Malone, who wrote nearly every word that we know about Jefferson and his life to quantify it as a direct link to Thomas Jefferson, of our historical background, but their opinion is not taken seriously today by our society, who expect degradation to be commonplace.
Lincoln has also been the subject of scrutiny, aiming at the chink in the armor of Lincoln, his wife. We are led to believe that the mental condition of his wife led our President to become a “wife beater”. I was surprised that the recent movie did not have him walking around the white house wearing a sleeveless undershirt. As to our other leaders, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Linden Baines Johnson, etc. All have been given a story line that proves their unworthiness as leaders. Try telling some poor man who had lived through the thirties that Franklin D. Roosevelt was a notorious womanizer and see how far you can get before you receive a “knuckle sandwich” in your mouth.
Let us move on to another holiday that at one time had a strict observance. I can hardly remember his name now, because his accomplishments have become forgotten over the last thirty years and instead we have replaced his excellent reputation with that of an adventurer in a lust for gold. His holiday was always celebrated on October 12th. He was the founder of the New World, risking life and limb, mutinous crews and exposure to the dangerous elements of nature and the unknown. Christopher Columbus. Now it is just another platform for values on a shopping day.
By this time, archaic calendar dates were no longer important. What is October 12th after all? It was just another day in the week. Three days off was more important, and important for business. So, the stores would be open for another holiday, Columbus Day, and the sales were brisk. Columbus Day specials were out there for the consumer to purchase. This was the initial celebration, but as time went by, our Orwellian historians began to chip away at our hero. First, what was so important about America? It is, after all, a country with only two hundred years of recorded history to boast about. Why European nations have been around for centuries, empires have risen and fallen. Why should this gold seeking adventurer deserve the respect of a token holiday? Let us not forget that since discovering America, this land was stolen from indigenous Indian populations, who were slaughtered by ensuing nations in the name of Church and State, to claim this land for the benefit of empires. They stole their wealth (as if wealth was some sort of state that could be identified only with gold), enslaved millions and brought about disease (as if we had a twentieth century idea of germs and transmission). This was all under the guise of praise in 1992, with numerous books “celebrating” the discovery of the new world five hundred years prior, with titles like “American Holocaust”, and “Marvelous Possessions”, on the shelves that portrayed new world adventurers as looters, murderers, and thieves all in the name of God and country who would murder native Americans using dogs to maul them to death. This was the new image of Columbus, a man in chains, brought back to pay his debts. Now with retail workers all working on that day, I am surprised that it has not been struck from our Calendar.
Our respect for the nation on July 4th is slowly being eroded by activities designed to weaken the advice given by John Adams, to gather with our families and give thanks, while including loud bangs and fireworks as a part of our victory for independence by slowly turning the holiday into one of large gatherings, sponsored by corporations whose purpose is to control the whole holiday with a fireworks show at the end of a musical concert by popular rock bands or jazz musicians co-endorsed (and paid) by city representatives. This sounded wonderful when it was first proposed, but resultant expenses and crime have made it a recurring nightmare. Immigrant culture has no identification with revolutionary events in America from 1776, because they lack unity with the population and the tendency to form little communities that reflect the “old country”, where they can be among their own cultural familiarity, foods, and celebrate holidays that are a part of their own culture, not ours, for example, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, etc.
Far easier was to make “Flag Day” on June 14th disappear. It was at one time a highly respected date and children as well as parents displayed the flag on their personal property. Bicycles and vehicles were decorated, and contests were held by various agencies, especially during wartime, to place our flag all over America. During the Bicentennial, revolutionary flags made a comeback and we had a mini-revival for the spirit of seventy six flag and our original thirteen colony flag for some time. The way this was downgraded was to bring changes to neighborhoods. The united neighborhood became a thing of the past. Most Americans don’t even know who their neighbors are in this era. Immigration helped to lessen enthusiasm for a nation that ordinarily had trouble with cultural identity. Now, with persons coming in from all the corners of the world, most no longer speaking a common language, the urge to display the flag just appeared like a passing fad of a period after World War 2. Another factor was definitely the negative influence of Vietnam era politics and military adventures. People lost their pride, and with a dependency on behalf of a lot of Americans today and greater regulations controlling their lives, well, there is not much to celebrate anymore.
The Thanksgiving holiday seems to be untouchable, but we have been taking away respect for this holiday for a number of years through our Ministry of Truth once again re-interpreting history. The Puritans are always associated with this holiday and our nation was taught that pilgrims were supported by American Indians during those early years where starvation was possible and winters took deadly tolls of a people trying to gain a foothold on the new continent. They celebrated abundance with a shared meal, or so we were instructed. Our modern enlightened instruction shows that our pilgrim fathers were not the kind, gentle survivalists peacefully in cooperation with Indians. We are now shown the “violent frontier” angle on this issue, as if we are twenty-first century pilgrims interpreting in a better way. Early settlers are now just profit seeking murderers, out to make a fortune, where the only good Indian is a dead one; that has become a wart on the skin of the American identity.
The United States Government has also worked toward destroying this holiday! How? Well, anyone who works in a government facility can tell you what has transpired within the confines of certain agencies. There are places where rules inside the workplace threaten and constrict freedom of expression, and punish their own employees for not “making projected rates”. One year, not long ago, I learned from a friend who worked in an agency that supervisors were informed that because of lower than expected rates, employees had to return to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving in certain sections. Now, everyone knows that the holiday, by, tradition, begins on Wednesday evening because of travel requirements. Employees in Federal positions especially are generally working in a city that is distant from where their family resides or where they lived before becoming a government employee. The transitory days are necessary if they are to participate in Thanksgiving with their parents, children, etc. So to force employees to return to work for one day on the Friday after Thanksgiving is to ruin their opportunity to be with their families if they must travel. What a rotten thing to do!
Now we move on to Christmas Day. We have been well aware for many years about the assault on Christmas. The attempt to remove the sanctity of Christ from Christmas would go from the obvious “X-Mas” to “Happy Holidays” , but now children are suspended in school for even wishing “Merry Christmas” to someone! This is all an attempt to limit freedom of speech or expression, and has been the focus of atheists over the last few decades that are almost similar to former persecution periods where people were made to feel guilty for having images in their homes or even “non-sacred” books or art, to be brought out to burn. Now truly, what does that remind you of? There seem to be more than parallels here as we advance toward greater government involvement. At one time in America, the reaction to the burning of books was to make them more accessible to the American public by creating a special “book rate” within the Postal Service, signed by Franklin Roosevelt so that it would demonstrate our resolve against such evil forces. By the way, “book rate” no longer exists within the postal service. It is now combined into something called “Media Mail”, which fits in with the word “propaganda” more easily.
Our government has participated not in defense of this Christian holiday, but in an attempt to make such a celebration less a distinction by religion, and more of a universal group issue based on ethnic origin. By government “suggestive practices”, we must recognize the rights of all groups to “equitable tradition”. The interpretation of “religious freedom of expression” is ignored. Christianity has even been forced to remove elements related to Christianity and usually is tied up in court, based on a complaint from someone offended by an open air display showing manger scenes, etc. But to show you how hypocritical this policy is, would anyone dare to challenge the “open air” display of a Jewish Rabbi lighting a large Menorah on a public commons every year? No, they chicken out on this one, because to attack a Jewish public display is to be compared to oppressive national socialists, and the nature of these groups who complain would lose their support, reputations, and their shirts in lawsuits if they tried. But Christians don’t come out in force, and government does not back majority opinion, but favors the non-sectarian nature of a society that is morally bankrupt.
Now what about New Year’s Day? It would seem that a day like this is not that important and no attempt has been made to change it. However, regulation is the key in this case. Since the early years, celebrations have always revolved around alcohol, social celebration in a public atmosphere, a night life of dating and watching fireworks, lavish dinners with loved ones on the eve of the festivities, with parades and marches the following day. The holiday has become, over time, a more controlled event. It is handled in the same way as the July 4th celebration. Fireworks are always on hand at midnight in major cities so that a large group of people will crowd the businesses such as bars and restaurants in the center city area and gain revenue from parking lots owned by the city and the enforcement of restrictions against driving under the influence, arrests for disorderly conduct, etc., which are very common on this holiday. The restrictions gain each and every year. I have been a witness to vehicle stops on ordinary routes, not associated with celebrations but under the guise of drunk driving enforcement, designed to “find something” in order to fine an individual for vehicular inconsistencies. This is “fund raising” on behalf of a lot of city government agencies. There are a lot of issues that I can add to this bundle, but I have left the concentration of this article on the right of our citizenry to enjoy the traditions of their ancestors expressed through the celebration of national holidays, designed to endure and ensure that the memory of the day and the purposes for their recognition may not perish from our nation.