Is It Easter or spring break?
The Easter Bunny can be a freaky concept when you didn’t grow up with it.
I mean, does the Easter Bunny lay the eggs? Rabbits aren’t even oviparous! And for what I gather, he’s a boy. Are you sure those are eggs and not something else? After all, they are brown in the inside.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic (the DR) Easter didn’t include treats for kids. It was called “Semana Santa” (Holy Week) and there were only two acceptable ways to celebrate it: Either you spent it on your knees in church, or you spent it flat-on-your-face drunk at the beach.
Spring-Break Girls-Gone-Wild back off! Do you think flashing a camera is daring? Take risking your life. In the DR Spring Break (Semana Santa), was the holiday for “thinning the herd,” and “natural selection.” We all knew that not everyone who left home would return alive.
Every year, everybody decided to go to the beach at once, causing terrible traffic jams and car accidents. And alcohol, cars and swimming don’t mix well. An alarming number of people died from drowning, or in crashes. The survivors struggled with second-degree burns from the Dominican sun—Yet everyone was ready to do it again the next year.
The problem is the proverbial “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.” Dominicans know how to have fun in the bleakest of situations. Give them a transistor radio, an empty gallon-jug, and a glass jar filled with nails and they’ll improvise musical instruments and throw a mind-blowing party in the middle of a power outage—just because. When you tell them, “Now it’s a special occasion and you must celebrate” nothing good can come out of it.
So, how did we go from a pagan spring ritual to a Judeo-Christian religious holiday, to plastic colored chocolate eggs laid by a rabbit and topless college girls?
Some holidays just don’t make sense.
Growing up in the DR, I got depressed after Christmas ended, because I had to wait a whole year to have another holiday. Yet here in the US we have so many holidays I can hardly keep them straight.
On my first year living in the US, I was puzzled to see an ad in TV promoting some “Veteran’s Day’s Mattress Sale.” I spent the whole day wondering, “What do veterans have to do with mattresses? Does that mean the store only gives a discount to veterans? Or are those mattresses designed for people with war injuries?”
But then I saw an add for “Martin Luther King’s Day Sale” at a car dealership and I wondered, “Wait, is that a sale especially for Martin Luther King descendants? Do they have to bring their birth certificates to prove they’re related to him?”
But then a few weeks later it was, “The President’s Day furniture sale.” And I knew it. “There’s no way that store is only selling furniture to the President!”
And that was when I got it.
“They’re not really celebrating that holiday! It’s all an excuse to get people to go shopping!”
And that’s what I quickly learned most holidays were. Merchandisers’ excuses to make us go shopping.
And also a reason to: 1-) Overeat and feel guilty about it (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July picnics, Labor Day or Memorial Day Picnics). 2-) Get drunk (see all previous plus: St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Superbowl—yes, that’s a holiday too.) 3-) Or eat chocolate (Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, Easter…)
Here, the succession of holidays is overwhelmingly fast. You’re barely taking down the Christmas decorations when the store is bursting into red-heart merchandise for Valentine’s Day.
Still, it didn’t take me long to realize why even obscure holidays are so important here: Compared to the slow-paced island-time in the DR, Americans work their butts off. Nobody would survive such pace if we didn’t have something to look forward to—An oasis ahead so we can keep dragging ourselves down our daily grinding—a way to break the calendar into manageable bits.
Holidays also give us a sense of predictability. As the world’s pace accelerates, work schedules become tighter and everything changes around us, it’s good to have something to hold on to. “No matter how many changes are happening in the world, or in my life. Hang on a little longer. Groundhog Day is coming.”
And sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Why do we need holidays anyway? Why can we just say, ‘Every day is a miracle to be celebrated equally’?”
Because the human condition prevents us from being happy for too long. We need to have “normal” and “low days” in order to appreciate the good days in between.
So now, allow me to wrap up this post so I can stuff little toys and treats inside plastic colorful eggs. After the kids are done, some raccoon is going to be very lucky Sunday night.