Where are all the happy holidays?

By and

After eons of scrambling about the rugged landscape for gristle and bone scraps to gnaw, one of the first major conclusions hatched by civilized man about agricultural life was, “Hey! Maybe I shouldn’t work so damn much!”

When Babylonians were done reaping fields of rye with their heavy scythes-or whatever it is Babylonians did all day-the only leisure time they had was an hour of shadow puppetry in front of the fire before hitting the haystacks. And, for a short time, they were content with that.

But husbands eventually grew tired of the same old shadow puppet shows. Many men even started going out for a few glugs of hearty ale after long harvest days. In turn, their lonely wives developed major psychological complexes that were considered incurable at the time-since health spas had yet to be invented.

Couples soon stopped begetting altogether, and it became clear to early Babylonian leaders that a standardized seven-day workweek-complete with a day of rest-was necessary. So began “days off” as we know them today.

Ancient Egyptians took a “yearly five days” to make up for the gap in their 360-day calendar. Unfortunately, they used all five days every year instead of accounting for leap years, and they were five months behind schedule by the end of the Old Kingdom, causing all of their supercomputers to crash.

One day a week wouldn’t cut it forever, though. The great Romans needed another excuse to skip work, eat grapes and have public sex with multiple partners simultaneously. Their answer was to exploit an old tradition-the “holy day.”

The first “holy day”, according to The Bible, was Father’s Day. In the Garden of Eden (baby), Abel gave a fine razor in appreciation of his father’s love, while Cain presented Adam with a snakeskin tie-the mark of a Sith lord’s apprentice. So Rome can’t claim to have originated the holiday, but they were unquestionably the best at altering their calendar for the public’s interests.

“Thou shalt rejoice on the Nones of Martius!” emperors would exclaim in hopes of keeping would-be conspirators at bay. Emperor Claudius held 159 holidays in a 360-day year, even though they only had a six-hour workday at the time. And forget the stuffy Rose Bowl; their holidays featured cool chariot races and murderous combat. Think: “Jackass, VII A.D.”

Valentine’s Day, which many credit to stationery companies, can actually be traced back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia (Februarius 15), when young men would gather in a cave with bloody goatskins and run around whipping nearby spectators to promote fertility. This is the reason lovers give each other cards and chocolates today.

Who knows who started Lupercalia (besides historians)? Whoever started it deserves our most sincere acclaim for taking advantage of Rome’s tremendous prosperity to bring joy to all humanity. America, also possessing tremendous prosperity, should mimic this laid-back approach.

Currently, there are just 10 federal holidays. Can you name them?

Who cares if you can name them? (I can’t believe you actually tried to name them!) The point is, these holidays will someday come to identify the priorities of our culture. If we’re not careful, future scholars are going to find a Dumpster full of fliers and conclude that we all once celebrated “Starbucks’ Frappuccino Friday,” or else they’ll simply group us with the smelly, no-fun Babylonians.

Any of us could start a decent holiday with a little effort. We all know “No Pants Day” as an integral part of our American culture in 2006, but did you know that the University of Austin was the first to observe this fine occasion just nine years ago?

“Blame Someone Else Day” became popular after Anne Moeller didn’t get up on time for work in 1982 and told everybody she knew an elaborate excuse, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in May 2005. In a sly effort to cover her tracks, she then created a holiday to commemorate her lies and announced it to the local newspaper.

OK, so that one probably didn’t really catch on. It probably got her fired. But even the hallowed Mother’s Day was the commercial brainchild of phone companies attempting to increase long-distance phone calls (I refuse to celebrate it).

The only truly worthwhile holidays are the ones that get us out of work. For those, you need a revolutionary, an explorer or a religious affiliation.

In New York the entire working population gets the day off on major Jewish holidays. Hawaii has King Kamehameha Day, Texas has San Jacinto Day and Illinois has Casimir Pulaski Day, in honor of a Polish fighter in the American Revolution who never visited the state in his life. In Utah, Mormons were able to establish Pioneer Day, even though calling the Mormon settlers “pioneers” is kind of like calling Moses a “seafarer.”

Since there aren’t really any new revolutionaries or explorers, it might be time for us to look again to organized religion for relief.

If only we could recognize Scientology as a legitimate, meaningful faith?we could add an astounding 19 holidays to the calendar! Scientologists have a Celebrity Day, a day to cure drug addiction, a day to celebrate their auditors and similar days to celebrate just about every business arm of their organization. They even have enough famous faces to put on a TV benefit. In a nutshell, they’re perfect.

All we have left in 2006 is crummy Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We need Celebrity Day. We’re in serious jeopardy of forgetting essential elements of our nation’s spirit, valor and pride. In this supposed “land of opportunity,” where’s our freedom to skip work, eat grapes and have public sex with multiple partners simultaneously?

By the way, for all the hesitant Monday class-goers out there, Oct. 2 is Yom Kippur, Gandhi’s birthday, Guinea’s Independence Day and the French Potato Day.

You have all you need. Just be sure to get the notes from somebody, and have a happy holiday.