Last week, a friend of mine wished everyone on Facebook a happy Thanksgiving by calling it the “eat whatever you want without feeling guilty” holiday.
She’s right, of course. Officially, Thanksgiving is about being grateful, but we all know the main focus is usually on making a ridiculous amount of food then trying to eat as much as possible.
It’s gluttony, really. One of the seven deadly sins.
Not that I’m against it. Giving into temptation every once in a while helps us build up enough willpower to truly deprive ourselves.
It’s an old idea. The Catholics have a long tradition of letting loose during the Carnival festive season right before buckling down into all the self-denial of Lent.
Maybe they’re onto something… America may not have a Carnival festival per se, but we DO have 7 major holidays, which just happens to be the same number as the official deadly sins.
1- Thanksgiving: Gluttony
Official purpose: Being grateful for what you already have
I already covered this one… On Thanksgiving, we’re all supposed to prepare a massive feast involving turkey, cheese-covered green beans, and a variety of seasonal gourds.
We then invite our families over to collectively lay siege to this food pile, not stopping until everyone is sleepy and no one can buckle their pants.
That’s when we break out the pumpkin pie…
2- Halloween: Lust
Official purpose: Making yourself look unappetizing
Traditionally, Halloween is about kids dressing up in scary costumes and going from house to house,collecting candy. So maybe, for kids, Halloween is about gluttony. They weren’t all that jazzed about eating turkey, after all.
But for adults, it’s the holiday where good taste fashion rules fly out the window. Naughty nurses, naughty witches, and naughty tavern wenches are EVERYWHERE.
It’s the one time of year women feel free to channel their inner dominatrix, parading around in glorified bikinis, weapons, and heavy eyeliner. Ironically enough, this all happens when it’s super cold outside.
3- Christmas: Greed
Official purpose: Caring about everyone else
Sure, Christmas is about the birth of our savior, trees with pretty lights, traditional songs and family togetherness. It’s lovely.
But who are we kidding? For kids, it’s all about the presents. They dream up wish lists for months, write letters to Santa, and wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas, hungry to tear into that sweet new pile of toys.
And we parents absolutely break ourselves to make that possible.
4-New Year’s Eve: Sloth
Official purpose: Welcoming the challenges of a whole ‘nother year
NYE is basically a grownup’s holiday that mostly involves going somewhere to sit around and drink until the clock strikes midnight and everyone kisses each other.
I’m gonna argue NYE is all about sloth, because it’s not only the holiday that involves the least work (unless you’re throwing a giant party), but also the one where everyone expects to magically improve their lives.
Yeah, we just cheer for the brand new year, thinking this new year will automatically make great things happen without us having to do anything. Okay, maybe we throw out a New Year’s resolution or two, but we definitely won’t be starting them until tomorrow.
5- Valentine’s Day: Envy
Official purpose: Being grateful for your significant other
This is the holiday where some lucky women receive enormous bouquets of roses at work, in front of all their jealous coworkers, while others wonder why their deadbeat boyfriends/husbands never send them roses at work. Because apparently that guy has gotten a little too comfortable and it’s probably just a matter of time before he stops even bothering to sniff the armpits of his shirts before getting dressed to go out.
This is the day when people in seasoned relationships get to envy the emotional rollercoaster of fresh new relationships, and people in new relationships get to be disappointed when a bunch of dramatic gestures don’t end up leading to an incredibly romantic proposal.
Even worse, single people have to sit around being single while the whole world celebrates being in love. Hearts, chocolates, and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes… it’s the schmoopiest, most in-your-face kind of romantic comedy love propaganda on the planet, designed to remind anyone single just how tragic it is to be alone.
Of course, all those bells and whistles put a lot of pressure on couples. What if you’re exhausted and all you really feel like doing is ordering in a pizza and watching Netflix? This wouldn’t be a problem if you were single. Single people have nothing to prove and can do whatever they want. Lucky bastards…
6- Independence Day: Wrath
Official purpose: Patriotism
It’s tempting to say the 4th of July is all about Pride, because we Americans are feeling pretty smug about how awesome our country is and how smart we were to hide behind rocks while the British Redcoats lined up with giant X’s on their chest.
But I’m going to go with Wrath instead.
Why? Because the one thing that distinguishes Independence Day is our collective need to watch fireworks. (Maybe we set them off ourselves, or maybe we go watch a professional show… it depends on how your city ordinances deal with handling explosives).
And while fireworks are beautiful, their thundering noises, flashing lights, and thrilling potential danger have been commemorating the weapons of war since 1777.
That’s right, everyone casually eats watermelon and well-barbecued meats while fondly remembering how we really decimated the British with our musket fire and cannon balls. Cause that’s what we ‘Muricans do to folks who TAX US WITHOUT LETTING US REPRESENT.
You wanna TAX our tea?? Well, we’re gonna THROW IT INTO THE WATER and start DRINKING COFFEE INSTEAD.
You like them apples, England? How about you guys waltz into your nearest Starbucks, sip some lattes and think about what you did…
7- Easter: Pride
Official purpose: Celebrating the resurrection
Admittedly, saying Easter is all about the deadly sin of pride may be a hard sell. But I’ve only got one holiday and one deadly sin left, so I plan to plan to rationalize that square peg into this round hole until my theory completely fits.
So… what about the fact we think we know what we’re doing, even though we’re all celebrating Christ’s resurrection with a bunch of bunny rabbits and colorful eggs?
Does that seem reasonable to you? That a giant rabbit, who hides baskets of chocolate from children, should be a fitting symbol of our messiah’s return from the dead?
Of course. Because we all know what we’re doing here. Why shouldn’t we call this holiday “Easter,” which comes from the Teutonic fertility goddess “Eostre,” which we celebrate in the Spring with a bunch of fertility symbols, like eggs and rabbits?
Nothing weird about that.
And while we’re on the subject of pride, how about the way we celebrate the holiday by hiding baskets and eggs from little kids. Kids have trouble finding them even when we put them in really obvious places, which makes us feel pretty smart.
Easter, the day we get to feel like geniuses by outwitting a pack of tiny children.
So, am I completely off the mark here? Because I’m basically saying that while we set up these holidays to celebrate the greatest of human virtues, we kind of end up reveling in the worst.
Not that it’s a bad thing. Maybe we need these “safe,” official spaces to get out all our selfishness. Maybe it makes us better people for the rest of the year.
Or maybe we’re inventing new holidays to do it better. I mean, what the heck is Black Friday about, if not our willingness to trample our countrymen to get our hands on a bigger TV?
UPDATE: After reading this post, my blogging buddy Amanda at Just in Queso wrote a hilarious post where she assigned the 7 deadly sins to characters on the show Friends. You should check it out: Sins and Friends.
(And read her other stuff too. It’s really good!)