I've been thinking a little bit about holidays and what I would do if I were to redesign them.
For starters, I'd be looking to make them more inclusive. Get rid of the religious connotations. It's not about celebrating one religion over another. It's about getting together to celebrate... New Years and perhaps, for the southern hemisphere, we could look at Easter as sort of a summer harvest type of thing.
So for New Years, get rid of Christmas entirely. Instead, make New Years eve a public holiday. For gift giving, get rid of the whole idea of a set day to give presents. Instead, if you see something that you think someone might appreciate, buy it and let them know they're in your thoughts.
If you must buy something, then I reckon you get together and chip in for those bigger purchases. For my family home it'd be things like a dish washer or heat pump, outdoor furniture or something to pretty up the garden like plinths and statues or heaven forbid, a water feature.
Which makes me think about "Secret Santa". It's a bit of fun, but it kind of misses the point doesn't it? Or perhaps not. In a workplace, you may find that you appreciate about half of them. Buying presents for say... 50 out of a workplace of 100 people could get costly through the year. So it works to that extent. However, given that you don't normally know who you're buying for means that you're not really sparing a thought for someone you appreciate. It's a bit of a token really.
For Easter, make it about what you've got in the garden. So bring along beans, oranges, lemons, feijoas, rhubarb etc. Make up drinks like ginger beer. Make something like bread or hummus. See what sort of a meal you can put together. Celebrate the fact that the shops are closed and it's a time to do something a little bit special. Celebrate with friends and family. Autumns about to hit and we're appreciative of the summer that's just been.
But of course, things would probably have to be a little different for the northern hemisphere. Celebrate the coming of spring. The winter is finally over and it's time to kick off things like spring cleaning. Plant those really early crops etc.
I'd also look to having a public holiday in that really long period where there are no holidays. Perhaps a couple of days off together. A mid-winter Christmas for the southern hemisphere. Of course, you couldn't actually call it Christmas. Instead, it would be something along the lines of "Good Day". On Good Day, people get together to celebrate and show their appreciation for one another. There's a feast and whatever traditions people want to associate to it. Family feuds and arguments are put aside for a day while everyone struggles to not show that resentment they're so trying to hide. It's a good day regardless of what else is happening. One day...
And good will to all men?
I was in the supermarket on Christmas Eve and the woman in front of me at the checkout put down her baskets and ran off to get something she'd forgotten. I don't blame her - I wouldn't want to go through the supermarket again for a couple of mistaken items on Christmas Eve.
So I decided to help her out. While she was gone, I stacked her groceries on the conveyor belt for her - just so that she wasn't rushing around. I thought it was just a nice thing to do for someone. She came back and was a tiny bit cynical about it. I mean, she wasn't awful about it, it's just that she didn't quite get my motives. She said something along the lines of "I understand about the whole flow of things and appreciate you trying to keep things moving".
"No, that's not it", I replied. "It's just a damn good time for random acts of kindness. This avoids you getting yourself into a state trying to keep things moving."
It did take her a while and she thanked me eventually. Actually, I'm kind of pleased that it did take her some time. She'd considered it.
The point though, is that these acts are so few and far between that people are suspicious of anything outside of the norm. Can't we practise goodwill to all men all year around? Spare a thought for the random person on the street. Offer to help them carry something while it's on your way. Offer up a smile every now and again. Hell, compliment someone's shoes. Volunteer to help with a cause you believe in. Although - I've got a whole other post to write up on that.
I suppose the question is, would this make us all a little happier? We wouldn't have to hear the news talking about Christmas sales figures as if we're supposed to care. This just in: cd sales are down this year and overall sales are as good as last year. Oh my! I think that in itself would make me just a touch happier.