Ripped Off in Spring
As we leave the more notable holiday season behind, for now, we must now trudge through the bleak remnants of winter and hope for Spring to give us something to live for. It isn't easy, especially if you live for the 'big three': Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
In turn, we now have the lesser three: Valentine's, St Patrick's, and Easter. Now I certainly don't want to diminish the origins of each respective holiday. Valentine of Terni was beaten, stoned, and beheaded; Patricius was sold into slavery; and the Easter Passion generally needs no further explanation. In lieu of these sordid tales, we get candy, booze, and then a second round of candy. While much had been said about the commercialization of Christmas, it's far from the only time we've been pushed to buy novelties so there would be something to do in a given month. I can sort of see how the Jewish community feels as their bloody civil war has been turned into a supposed eight days of presents and dreidel spinning, which isn't much better.
Anywho, enough has been discussed about all that, and I don't care to belly-ache about corporate assimilation of celebratory days that many people wouldn't have known about otherwise. Instead I want to belly-ache about how things used to be before boring old adulthood took over and forced everyone to buy a greeting card or else risk hurt feelings and a possible passive-aggressive silent treatment.
There was once a magical time in grade school (or primary school...I'm writing for an international audience, so forgive my ignorance in regards to naming) where each holiday was given more or less the same weight. Christmas of course got top billing, but we didn't care. Once it passed, we had little more than a month to gear up for the next.
Each was not a grand display, but we didn't need that. Reams of construction paper themed to the colors of the event at hand were sufficient. We could decorate the room with streamers and connected links. We could cut out shapes and paste them on the wall with that weird blue putty stuff. We could make cards from scratch and everyone would get one, even the weird kids.
We were lulled into a false sense that this would be the way it would always be. Every month was special and had some reason to bring us a momentary respite from our daily drudgery. When you're in your single digits, school is the most bothersome thing in your life, so any excuse to get out of work and use plastic scissors to cut out shapes from colored paper was a good thing, even if said scissors couldn't cut pre-scored tissues.
More often than not, we'd have the same routine. Decorate the classroom and have some sort of snack. Halloween would have the added benefit of costumes, Christmas would have secret Santa, and Valentine's Day we would all swap cards.
I found this one to be one of the more exciting spectacles. We'd bring in a paper lunch bag, decorate it to our heart's content, and then hang it off our chair. This was our mail box, at which point we'd make the rounds, dropping off cards that paid strict adherence to formal gender roles. This was serious business. One time my brother almost gave one of his male friends a Ninja Turtle card that said 'dudette'. I saved his life that day. Everyone got a card, and there was no awkward romantic ties to any of it, just pure camaraderie.
St. Patrick's and Easter didn't have a complex show, opting instead to display their themed colors, again in construction paper. It didn't matter; there was no learning that day, and we got apple juice in a tiny paper cup that I would usually spill as I tried to get things out of my desk.
Like all good things, they must come to an end; eventually grade school turned into to junior high. There were still some celebrations, but the 'big three' became more prominent, and truthfully it was really just a 'big two' in the end.
I recall the first time I felt like I was kidding myself about giving each holiday equal weight. It was probably in junior high, or just prior, during St. Patrick's Day. As with most holiday prep, the stores help you buy into the festive mood by decking out their aisles in the appropriate colors and useless items. I bought green moustaches, green hats, green kazoo blowy things, shamrock glasses, and a Tasmanian Devil t-shirt. That last item had a speech bubble on it that read something like, “Me Irish...” Only the old ladies at church found it funny and paraded me around to show it off.
I'm not sure if it was just the cold damp weather of the depressing period of time just prior to spring that did it, but despite the total buy-in for the celebratory aspects of the holiday, I just didn't feel it. It was becoming obvious that not everything was equal, and that childhood reverence had a firm shelf life.
Worse, the better holidays also started to lose their luster after a while. Trick or Treating faded away, relatives stopped giving you gifts, and you were expected to actually eat all the food at Thanksgiving, not hide out at the kids table until dessert.
Things improved eventually, and I found ways to make them count again with internet countdowns and gift swaps amongst friends. Valentine's Day is more of a perilous land mine at this point, and I don't partake in the drunken debauchery of St. Patrick's. Easter has reclaimed a little of its spirit with Egg hunts (sorry, Spring Spheres for the secular crowd) and the promise of better weather.
Ultimately though, I miss the simple construction paper chains, cutouts, and snacks. We can't go back, and for that I feel just a little ripped off...