Holidays are subversive. They disrupt our routine by suspending-if only for a day-the demands of our normal schedules.
Their subversion extends in many directions. Christmas represents many things, but at a fundamental level it inverts our spatial relationships. Things that we typically keep inside our houses-like lights and decorations-get put up on the outside, while at the same time we literally drag trees in from the outdoors and give them places of honor inside our homes. What is outside goes inside and vice versa. Halloween presents a similar opportunity to display publicly an identity or alter ego that we might ordinarily conceal.
Holidays challenge our notions of time. Religious holidays whose observances are set by a lunar calendar slide around from year to year, reminding us that there are other ways of parsing our orbit around the sun than the 365 day grid we use to schedule our lives.
But we push holidays around as well. We have untethered some from their historical dates in order to create the convenience and blessing of the three day weekend. Breweries have hijacked certain ethnic holidays and transformed them into adult frat parties. An occasion as inherently solemn as Memorial Day has become the starting bell for the pleasures of summer.
But there are also the occasions that feel like lost opportunities to recognize and to celebrate things that are missing in our lives. Take today for example. The spring equinox is a moment of celestial balance, a time when darkness and light share roughly equal portions of the day. Why should its observance be left to the astronomers or people with an excessive regard for all things Druid?
We live in an age of the hyper-partisan and in a country marked by enormous disparities in wealth and income. This could be our day to subvert all that. We would celebrate balance and equality, tolerance and moderation. And best of all, this would be a two-for-one offer, since we can do this all over again when the autumnal equinox rolls around in September.
With a Perspective, I’m Paul Staley.
Paul Staley lives in San Francisco.