We are here, at “the holidays” in these not-so-United States of America. If you’re in the hospitality industry, as soon as Halloween hits it may just as well be New Year’s Eve. It’s an onslaught of merriment and increasing darkness, with a foreboding Whole Sober 30 January waiting in the wings.
In general I don’t care for the holidays, excluding bank holidays or ones about workers that don’t really apply to this country because we love money and hate work and don’t care about workers. I’m talking about the holidays we hold the most expectations for.
Halloween: For children and people who are more imaginative, creative and expressive than I am. So there’s that. But also a holiday bastardized by people who ingest large amounts of alcohol and drugs and wear masks and sexy versions of civil servant uniforms to get laid. I once saw so much vomit on the train stairs and platform I swore to never sit on any stairs every again, no matter how many hours I worked. And that was a Monday Halloween. I’ve also seen a grown man wearing a cloth diaper and smoking a cigarette walking home the morning after Halloween, right past the police who closed the street for the marathon.
Thanksgiving: A holiday that glorifies white people’s impending genocide of the Native Americans who already lived on this land before they imagined they discovered it. Made worse by people on social media who try to have it both ways by posting memes about how fucked up this is but also the dishes they are making. Too many of the same flavors all at the same time, or even worse, attending one where someone got hold of some websites and magazines and tried to reinvent the wheel.
Christmas: A familial obligation that can only lead to disappointment, either in how much quality time is or isn’t spent, because we’ve had expectations ingrained in us since childhood that holidays are worthwhile and better than other days. Or, your gifts suck. Also a capitalist hellhole that masks our lack of actual inner lives. Supposed to celebrate the birth of a person who sacrificed his life for humans to be better to one another, especially loved by people who would not let that baby be born on their property.
New Year’s Eve: Oh god so horrifying. It’s supposed to be the greatest night of the year and the only way we know how to facilitate that is by abusing food, drugs, alcohol, sparkles and Lyft rides. Always a downer, and yet I’m not mature enough to stay home. The worst night of FOMO ever. Forever.
Valentine’s Day: Another day of expectations to crush with shitty gifts, cards, thoughtless candy and obligatory dinner reservations all at the same time. And if you aren’t partnered up, to make you real, real aware of your single status. No duh it’s a creation by the greeting card industry. The only thing worse is listening to some mansplainer talk to you about this. Actually a great night to work in restaurants because all the tables are two tops, so it’s easier on the line. That’s it though. Even the candy isn’t good.
St. Patrick’s Day: A day of alcohol abuse by so many white people, it’s like the last holiday white people feel like are really for them. None of them look good in the shades of green they are wearing, and whoever introduced Dr. Seuss hats into the general dialogue of any sort of celebration should be propelled into space never to return. Nothing good comes of this day. Once I saw a giant man outside of the bar I lived above wearing gray sweatpants and a green t-shirt, his skull painted green. Another time I witnessed a person vomiting into the trash can on the train platform wearing one of the Cat in the Hat hats at 10am.
And here is the best holiday: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Eve. It is not-so-secretly the best bar holiday on the books. My family had a bar and I always remembered this Wednesday as a busy evening and night with a real groove to it. The shocking thing was, people seemed to actually enjoy being around each other on this night. Bar regulars and kids who went off to college and were coming back home for the holiday and everyone who lived nearby would come and spend time with each other and get along. Finally! Harmony!
I’ve been wondering why this is. Maybe it’s a sense of freedom the day off without the expectations of “this will be the best time ever.” Maybe it’s because you don’t have to buy gifts for anyone, so that dance isn’t even on the card. Or if you do want to buy a gift, it could be a shot of booze or a pack of smokes, or hey, a scratch-off lottery ticket. It’s always scratchers season. This night just seems to capture people at their most casual and at-ease. It’s not supposed to be perfect, it’s not supposed to be romantic or dramatic or praise jesus and you don’t have to have a special or fancy outfit. You can honestly just hang out and get a little loose without getting crazy because you’ve got to cook the next day or play flag football or run a turkey trot or whatever it is people like to punish themselves with.
I know there are people left behind, the ones that do the most heavy-lifting, the CEO’s of emotional labor. This person is often the mother of the family. I don’t recall my mom ever being at the bar on Thanksgiving Eve. She called Thanksgiving “the Betty Crocker Bake-Off,” she would buy all the groceries and clean the kitchen and put out one new roll of paper towels on a clean counter as she turned off the lights in preparation for the onslaught of togetherness, cooking, oven shuffling and always a clogged sink. We hosted both sides of our family for Thanksgiving. So I’m sure for my mother, and many other people, part of the greatness of the best holiday of the year is when everyone leaves the house to meet at the bar and she could be alone, smoke a cigarette and have her own damn drink, in peace.