Photo credit: asterix611

The time has come to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the New (calendar) Year as it passes the same point in the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Well can we understand and accept that days tied to orbit-specific events should be recognized annually, but what about other events, in particular birthdays and anniversaries? Astrology aside, the date of one’s birth has no meaning and taken literally will never happen again, so that a birthday is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Certain popular birthdays could stand to be ignored altogether. The bias in the preceding statement may be due to being stranded in Tuscon on December 24th hungry, with no food, and a disturbing paucity of Chinese restaurants. The point is not that we should have done with birthdays for imaginary people only, but real ones as well.

Similarly, historical events do not recur annually yet holidays based on them do. For a society of a few hundred years this is no impediment, but consider a society spanning millenia. I believe the chief downfall of the Roman Empire was that by 476 AD every third day remembered some important battle or popular religion from a thousand years previous and no one could get any work done. When should a holiday be retired? For battles and such like things with no further significance the lifespan of those who lived through them will suffice. Certain things like wars for independence, especially those that end by founding a country, are more enduring in their impact and deserve a longer remembrance; they should be retired when the country or people established by them have become unrecognizable by the original patriots. The Thanksgiving holiday, which sole purpose is to skip two days of work and eat good food, could be celebrated monthly without protest.

There are precedents for events observed every four years like the Olympics or the World Cup. If the Olympics were held every year they would lose their significance. Leap years also occur approximately every four years and half the population would not object to moving Valentine’s Day to February 29th in recognition of Pope Gregory’s revised Julian calendar. Or buying chocolate or pretending not to hate dancing awkwardly or whatever that holiday’s supposed to be about. Point is, making every holiday annual by default makes no sense.