The Best Holiday

What is the best holiday?

It is a question that has plagued man since 23 BC, when Augustus Caesar declared the second Roman holiday – Aqueduct Day.

Aqueduct Day, like most Roman holidays to follow, revolved around drinking wine out of large jugs, yelling incoherently across large banquet halls and fondling women who were not your wife.

(The first Roman holiday was Drunken Fondling Day, which the Romans observed by gathering solemnly near the town aqueduct for a day of prayer and fasting.)

Young Roman scholars were known to sharpen their forensics skills by debating which holiday was the best.

Young Scholar 1: “I say it is Aqueduct Day. That is a day when a man can most enjoy being a man.”

To which Young Scholar 2 would retort: “Posh! You can have your (yawn) Aqueduct Day. Nothing sets a man’s loins ‘a tingling faster than even the driest utterance of the words Drunken Fondling Day.”

The debate was usually won by the young scholar whose father owned the most goats.

Scholar 1: “If I am so wrong, then how come my father owns such an exorbitant amount of goats? Could a man with such an ample head of goats possibly raise a fool?”

At this point, Scholar 2 would acquit himself and partake in an Orgy of Shame.

Flash forward to modern days. We are blessed with a cornucopia of holidays. We have so many holidays that a cornucopia is actually used in one of our holidays. Yet as far as I know, no one has ever properly answered the call of determining what is the best holiday. No one has had the courage or wit to end this age-old debate once and for all. With Halloween 2007 upon us, that is precisely what I intend to do.

(Above: You know it’s a type of copia, but which one? Correct answer: corn. It’s a cornucopia.)

In order to determine what is the best holiday, I needed a ranking system. Like the Romans, I demand science. So I ranked the major holidays on a scale of 1 to 10 in the following categories:

– Time off from work (10 for multiple days off work, 0 for none)
– Quality of party (10 for good party, 0 for no party)
– Deliciousness of food (10 for tasty treats, 0 for no treats)
– Travel (10 for no travel or fun travel, 0 for pain-in-the-ass travel)
– Sporting events (10 for good sporting events, 0 for no sporting events)
– Are there parades? I hate parades (10 for no parades, 0 for having any parades)

The following notable holidays did not make the cut: Martin Luther King Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Presidents’ Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day – perhaps I will do a list of the worst holidays in February – religious holidays that are not Christmas, Flag Day, Arbor Day, Boxing Day (Observed) and that day when girls can ask boys to the school dance – Sadie Hawkins Day. (Oh curse you, Sadie Hawkins Day, harbinger of the 19th Amendment.)

The following 10 made the cut. They’re the best of the best. If they were F-14 pilots, I wouldn’t believe that I was sending them to Miramar. I wouldn’t believe I was giving them their dream shot, sending them up against the best. I wouldn’t believe that I was sending these 10 characters to Top Gun.

The 10 Best Holidays

10. St. Patrick’s Day
I’m half-Irish. I should love St. Patrick’s Day. I’m ashamed to say it. I don’t. But I have a good reason why. It’s amateur hour at the bar. You can expect to experience the following things at any Irish pub on March 17: the dudes outnumber the ladies 5-to-1, some asshole will spill beer on you and look at you like you’re the asshole, you will almost be involved in a fistfight with a guy wearing nine layers of shirts (I have no idea why he has so many shirts of varying sleeve lengths, he just does), you will stand the whole time because you cannot get a table, the bathrooms will be covered in two inches of shit-sludge and it’s a given that you will see someone pee on, or in, something that is not meant to be peed on, or in.

Hey, I like to “party.” I like to “have a good time.” I have been known to “drink until I tried to tackle a parked Winnebago.” The bottom line is that when the mommies and daddies are partying, it’s no fun to have the kiddies around.

I challenge someone to prove me wrong. I am still waiting to have a great St. Patrick’s Day. I will change my tune and amend these rankings the year that happens.

What I am saying is, someone, please, buy me drinks next St. Patrick’s Day.

9. New Year’s Eve
See St. Patrick’s Day. On the plus side, this was a great holiday in college when you hadn’t seen your friends in a month and the first day you’re all back together after winter break is New Year’s Fucking Eve. Good times (NOD OFF INTO THE DISTANCE), good times. Also, New Year’s Eve scores a perfect 10 in the Sporting Event category because it’s the height of the college football season and when the calendar aligns favorably you have the first round of the NFL playoffs.

Let us never speak of the parade.

8. The Feast of the Assumption
This is a GREAT holiday. Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary every Aug. 15 with a four-day long street fair. The whole city turns out. Your best friends are there. Your old friends are there. You meet new friends there. This was the only holiday that scored a pair of perfect 10s for Deliciousness of food and Quality of party. (I know this one probably wouldn’t be on your list, but I can’t live in a world in which New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day are ranked higher than the Feast.) The only downer – and this is a serious negative – is that not all races, creeds and sexual orientations feel welcome at the Feast. The last few years I went it seemed to be getting better. But I haven’t been back in a long time. I can only hope that more people feel welcome at what is, block-for-block, Cleveland’s best holiday party of the year.

7. Halloween
I thought Halloween would be ranked higher. It scored perfect 10s on Quality of Party, Travel and I hate parades. But it lost points on Time off from work and Sporting events.

Overall, I like Halloween. It’s made for kids, but adults can enjoy it too.

I also like it because I went to Ohio University, which is home to a huge annual Halloween Party. You see things in Athens, Ohio on Halloween weekend that you will never see anywhere else. First, there is always a rumor of some sort of massacre that is set to occur at midnight on Court Street. That adds a nice edge to all the drinking and drug use. It’s not unusual to see Jesus hugging Satan in the middle of the street while hundreds of people cheer. One time I even saw Ronald McDonald walk into the Wendy’s on Court Street and yell “Don’t eat this shit! It will kill you.” And everyone who was eating Wendy’s hamburgers cheered.

Halloween is one of the many reasons my alma mater is consistently ranked among the top 10 party schools in the nation. (During job interviews I am always glad I live so far west of the Mississippi.)

6. Labor Day
This one is ranked higher than I thought it would be. The reason it did so well is that it’s a no-fuss holiday, which I like. You don’t have to travel. There are no annoying parades. Hamburgers generally make an appearance. It a
lso marks the start of fall, which is my favorite season, if for no other reason than that is when my birthday is and it is when school starts and me being a big nerd, I liked school. Also, I can wear white after Labor Day and feel like a king-hell rebel. (West Coast people have no idea what I’m talking about when I say that.)

5. Memorial Day
Memorial Day is the unofficial first day of summer. That is a great thing to celebrate. Like Labor Day, grilled meats are guaranteed to make an appearance. Unlike Labor Day, at least for me, Memorial Day has generally involved traveling. But it’s the good kind of traveling, the type where you go somewhere fun and half the fun is getting there. I have spent many a Memorial Day in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Great scenery. Great friends. Lots of laughs. And they have liquor stores there that you can drive through. You pull in. You pop your trunk. Someone puts beer in your car. You drive away. Whoever devised such a genius scheme needs to be put in charge of our nation’s airports, post offices and women’s bathrooms at sports arenas.

4. Independence Day
The 4th of July has all of the best parts of Labor Day and Memorial Day. It also has fireworks and perfect weather. Advantage: 4th of July.

2. Christmas
2. The Super Bowl

We have a tie. I tallied the scores and Christmas and the Super Bowl came in dead even. Both of these holidays are close to perfect. I like Christmas because it means family and presents and a great meal and lots of laughs. The late-night church ceremony is beautiful, with candles and a choir. The travel home is even bearable because you can listen to Christmas songs on your iPod on the flight. While you may or may not be religious, having a day of the year in which we celebrate being nice to each other is a pretty good thing too.

The Super Bowl is the quintessential American holiday. From humble beginnings, it rose to become a very important day of the year. The party is good. The food is good. No travel. No parades. It has a great sporting event. It has gambling, which as The Simpsons taught us makes “a good thing even better.” If we were given a day off for the Super Bowl – and I think a certain President McCain would probably do just that – it would have been the top holiday.

That particular honor falls to…

1. Thanksgiving
This is the best holiday of the year. It’s a day of family and friends and eating and football (both playing and watching), and although it is marred by a ridiculous parade, it is strong enough to overcome such a serious tarnish and take No. 1. If you have a great extended family – and I am lucky enough to have such a family – this is a wonderful day for catching up and telling stories and quoting the same movie quotes you’ve been quoting with your cousins for the last 10 years. I also like the whole idea of giving thanks for our abundance by eating in abundance. There is something very American about that. It’s perfect.

If you can’t get back home every year – and that is the reality for many of us – it’s also a great day to spend with friends and family in your adopted hometowns.

I love the freak Thanksgiving traditions – the bird and the date. The United States is the only country in the world that celebrates a major holiday by paying solemn tribute to a walking bird. Admit it. If Canada did that, we’d mock it relentlessly. Nice walking bird, eh? What’s the matter, Canada? Couldn’t find a fish that jumped out of the water and onto a plate of lemons and tartar sauce?

Then there’s the date. It’s roving. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November, but the actual date changes from year to year. We don’t celebrate enough roving in this country. I’m glad we have Thanksgiving to put roving squarely in the public conscience.

Thanksgiving also comes with a hidden bonus. Everyone you went to high school and/or college with is usually in town that Wednesday night. And they’re all at the bar. For my money, it’s the best drinking night of the year.

The best drinking night, that is, until Congress finally recognizes American Aqueduct Day. And for the sake of men with wives, let us hope they do, and soon.

To read Joe’s previous column “Robots Cannot Love” click here.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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