Saturday, August 6, 2011

Love and Hate for Made Up Holidays

By Kerry Schafer

I must begin at the beginning with a question: What precisely is a Made Up Holiday?

The phrase would imply that certain holidays exist which are implicit in the natural realm, brought into existence at the very dawn of time - rather like gravity or two plus two equals four.

The closest we would ever come to that would be Sabbath days, and that is a can of worms I am not about to open.

I think we'd probably have to agree that all holidays are made up, to some extent or another. And for the most part I have no problem with holidays. In fact, I kind of like them. They are a way to mark the seasons, to celebrate transitions. Take Christmas for example - in the middle of cold and snow and darkness, I look forward to the brightly colored lights, the traditional baked goodies that I only get once a year, the decorating of the tree. This is only natural. I grew up in a family where one year we actually delivered gifts to the neighbors by horse and sleigh. These were gifts that my mother made, and we rode through the dark, starry night with antique sleighbells jingling on our dappled grey. You don't experience that sort of idyllic event without it making an impression.

I have very little against most of the holidays - I figure it's my responsibility to set boundaries and not engage in whatever things I don't want to do.

The one I actually hate? Mother's Day.

Yep, I'm evil. It seems to me that this is a day of totally unnecessary guilt and sadness.

People like me, the disorganized type with no sense of time, are always scrambling at the last minute to send something that may or may not get to its destination in time. This is a small thing, and it's probably good for me. I keep thinking one year I will learn my lesson and get with the program nice and early. Fortunately, my mother knows better and accepts me just the way I am.

But a lot of mothers who don't hear from their kids on mother's day dissolve into grief and despair. I see them on crisis calls, sometimes outright suicidal. "Obviously my kids don't love me. I didn't get flowers. I didn't get a card. They didn't even call." Sometimes there is guilt attached to this of the "I was a bad mother" variety. But more often this mantra gets relayed to said child, with a twist of expertly applied mother guilt.

It gets worse. The probability that at some point in your life you won't have a mother to honor on this day is high. For those who have lost a beloved mother, the holiday only serves to rub salt into that wound.

And then there are those who experienced abusive or neglectful mothers, who now feel guilt because they are supposed to honor their mother on this day, but they frankly just don't want to make contact ever again. Or what about the people who never knew their mother at all?

Yeah. The list goes on. If you have a mother and she has been good to you, I say love her on every possible opportunity. Call her, send her cards just because. Tell her you love her.

The Obligatory Holiday? It kinda sucks.


  1. I agree 100%. I lost my wondrful mom 7 yrs. ago and now Mothers Day just makes me very sad. I wish I didn't get that reminder.

  2. I know it's a very difficult day for a lot of people. One of my friends reminded me today that it's also painful for women who wanted to have children and were unable to do so. Or who have lost a child. Amazing amount of heartbreak around this day if you think about it.

  3. It is a bittersweet holiday. My mom died the Monday before the upcoming Mother's Day. It really sucked to have to bury her and then go to mass a few days later.

  4. I'm totally loving the Christmas memory you shared.
    ~wanders off singing "dashing through the snow..."~

  5. Allison, that would have been so difficult to deal with. ~hugs~ Christmas hasn't ever been the same for me since my Dad died, either. He was always the spirit of Christmas.

    KAK - oh, yeah. It was the most idyllic memory imaginable, lol.