Friday, 6 November 2015

Strange Celebrations

As is often the case, reading American blogs put me in a weird situation last week: kind of feeling like the day should be special, and then - oh wait, no, it's not a celebration in your country. 

Thanksgiving is another typical case. 

But yes, definitely true for Halloween. 

In my experience, adults do Halloween over here, as an excuse to have a fancy dress party. I hear some kids go trick-or-treating, but I am yet to meet them. 

This year, we were in France, where no-one even pretends to have the slightest interest. My parents were told some grandparents in the neighbourhood were doing something, so they had some sweets ready, but predictably, no-one turned up. And we only thought about it the next morning, when we put away the sweets. 

So yeah, if you are feeling like the Halloween/All Saints war is wearing you down, just come over to Europe, and celebrate neither. 

On the other hand, this week there was a celebration that always sneaks up on me and leaves me bewildered. 

Bonfire night. Guy Fawkes day, for non-English people.

It's a funny one, because, basically, people just burn stuff or make stuff explode. That's it. That's the celebration. Oh, and parents get inwardly annoyed at their neighbours, because don'tyoudarewakeupthebabyyoustupid@&%%#^! (My inner dialogue is not very pretty.)

It makes me wonder: why are people still celebrating it?

I mean, I know that the fact that it's a tradition is plenty reason enough for the British, but isn't it, you know, mostly boring? And since people don't overtly say that all Catholics should be burnt at the stake anymore (polite ostracism is the go-to strategy), isn't it kind of pointless? 

Just in case you wanted to pretend it's not an anti-catholic holiday. It is. Deal with it.

It makes me think of people who will say to you "you haven't lived!" because you didn't party hard, or go insult foreign cultures under the guise of "travelling". 

Actually, I didn't party hard, because I never had much interest in it, and didn't particularly relish finding myself coerced into boredom because I was supposed to, "come on, live a little!" the few times people made me. 

And I didn't travel (apart from, you know, moving countries and stuff) because instead I studied hard, then started working, because I neither enjoyed depending on my parents nor getting into debt. 

The Victorians knew how to live.

I know, such an un-exciting life! Such a non-instagram period! Such a lack of hi-la-rious stories of drunken madness! 

Surely I am going to explode and have a midlife crisis soon? How else can one explain NOT doing all the approved fun things? 

Well, maybe I will. Ask me again in ten years or so. But my sneaky suspicion is that I won't. Because the approved fun things, just like Bonfire Night, don't withstand much scrutiny, don't give meaning to your life, and aren't even that fun most of the time. But we just go along with them, like we burn Guy Fawkes in effigy, because that's what we are supposed to do. But underneath, just like my wild-partying students, I don't think we enjoy it very much. 

So let's buck the trend, let's cosy up with a book, have a quiet dinner with three or four friends or just a very nerdy conversation with our spouses. Or, if you are not a crazy introvert with strong hermit tendencies, go ahead and have a big celebration. About something you are actually happy about and want to celebrate. Let's enjoy what we like to do without worrying about making sure we "have lived". 

I promise you I will breathe in and out during all these activities.

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