We remain party people here in the USA and we brought our celebrations with us from countries spanning the globe. Whether the holiday celebrations – from birthdays to splashy national events – seem helpful or vexing, chances are we all experience some stress getting through these jolly days. These include the annual Biggies:
- Personal Holidays: Birthdays and Anniversaries matter, whether you forget or remember, though they trend toward even-more-taxing when forgotten or left to the last minute.
- National Obsessions (USA): New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Celebrations vary from location to location, and some small communities dwarf metropolitan areas in their commitment. My preference leans toward warm local gatherings but events that have unrolled in my life as if they’re holidays include: Super Bowl Sunday, the last day of school before summer break, and election day (well, not this year, but in years past as a celebration of freedom and the power of the individual vote).
Having traveled this country coast-to-coast, I have to say nobody does fireworks with the dedication of the people of Hawaii. New Year’s Eve and Independence Day (the 4th of July) remain a smoky haze in my memory, filled with jolts, pops and explosions. Not only the larger venues and communities put on shows, but beaches and front yards let loose some formidable flash in celebration.
In fact, the people of Hawaii exhibited to me more grace, kindness, generosity of spirit, and celebratory glee than anyone anywhere. People of multiple cultures rub shoulders without major injuries. My favorite celebrations in Hawaii:
- Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festivals, big or small, showcased during annual festivals in Waikiki, Kauai, West Hawaii, and Maui. Here’s a link to the Waikiki 2020 festival; hope it makes you feel the warm breeze and smile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BH3MCbaGnM,[i]
- Bon Dances throughout the islands (check island schedules for dates/locations),
- Boy’s Day and Girl’s Day,
- County or Farm fairs (honestly, I love them everywhere!), and
- the Merrie Monarch Festival.
When I first moved to Hawaii, I lived in a small condo in a relatively large complex. Busy people flitted around every moment of every single day. Babies came home, family pets strayed, folks went to the hospital, celebrations erupted, extended families left for a staycation at the beach, visitors arrived from the mainland for a special vacation. One day, an eerie calm replaced the normal buzz, punctuated periodically by cheers or complaints. From my lanai I could hear music playing and occasional chanting. Oddly, everyone seemed tuned to the same station. Puzzled, I took a stroll around the 200+ units and noticed one older couple sitting outside with his and hers tablets streaming what seemed to come from the nearby units. This pair had lawn chairs, snacks, drinks, and sat is comfortable shade near their front door.
They waved to me. I waved back. Hesitating for a moment, the auntie said, “You need somethin’?” I shook my head, no, but turned back to ask, “Sorry. Don’t mean to bug you. Is something important going on? Everyone’s watching…” “Yeah,” she said and looked at her spouse. He said, “The Merrie Monarch,” as if that explained everything. “Oh, thanks,” I said, not wanting to showcase my ignorance, and I repeated his words to myself the-merry-monarch the-merry-monarch as I strolled back to my condo, turned on my laptop, and searched for “the merry monarch.”
What showed up in my search focused on Charles II of England, known as The Merry Monarch, but he didn’t seem that interesting. A racehorse also named Merry Monarch likewise seemed a long shot to having captured the attention of the people of Hawaii.
I did, however, notice a reference to Hawaii’s King Kalākaua with a tag line: “The perpetuation of Hula and the Hawaiian culture.” Absolutely.
The Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual week-long celebration of the Hawaiian culture, language, and arts, spotlights the uniquely Hawaiian art of hula. The festival, held in the spring, was cancelled because of the pandemic in 2020. Details for 2021 can be found at the festival website, so for more info, visit www.MerrieMonarch.com. In 10 years in Hawaii I never had the opportunity to attend, except via streaming video, but I’m so glad I had those opportunities to learn and celebrate the powerful art and aloha of Hawaii.
There are, of course, others, including Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, and those holidays named after somebody. These vary in importance from household to household, depend upon social significance and the season in which they fall, and seem amplified by direct connections to the holiday. For example, every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day always brings out copies of his I Have a Dream speech. My admiration lingers on his recognition of the problems relating to poverty and the Vietnam War, or his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that reads to me like poetry (“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”)[ii] and feels truer with every beat of my heart. Still, we return to the lovely but limiting Dream excerpt.
Whatever the holiday, consider meticulous self-care.
Ways to take care of yourself during these busy times:
HALT: Remember that old saying? It’s oh-so-true! Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Take a breath and check in with yourself throughout the day. Ask if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. You deserve excellent self-care so when any of those rings true, give yourself the break you need and your body craves. If you’re hungry, eat. You don’t need to prepare a gastronomical feast, but giving your body some real food will help. Angry? Relax and take a few breaths. If there’s something you can do about the situation that frustrated you, make a note and plan to act later when you feel cool and calm. The same when feeling lonely. Relax and breathe. If there’s someone you can reach out to, either nearby or virtually, take a few moments to set up a get-together later or take a few moments to reach out.
GYRL: This is one I either made up or heard years ago and somehow it stuck in my mind. Women, in particular, seem to try so hard to help others we often forget about giving ourselves priority. Gyrl: Guard Your Resources Loudly (and lovingly). It’s okay to say No. In fact, pick a day during which every time you pass a mirror or see your reflection, you stop, look yourself in the eye, and say No. (It sounds silly, but I attended a work-related training during which we teamed up and practiced saying “No” and giving each other feedback about how serious the “No” seemed. The coaching felt very effective.) You can also set a time during the day when you will say No to everything just to practice. (I know. It also sounds silly, but if you’re used to doing everything, saying No can feel liberating.)(You can call folks back later and say, “I moved some things around on my schedule, so I can help if you still need it” or “I gave it some thought and changed my mind. Do you still need help?”)
STOP: Stay True to you Own Principles – if you don’t want to use credit cards and are on a limited budget, let people know and seek ways to reduce the financial load. You deserve that. Consider making gifts
May we all celebrate with joy, enthusiasm, gratitude, and awareness of the traditional wisdom from which our celebrations have grown.
May you remind yourself often that you are enough. May you find the tools you need for self-care and both the time and the will to use them. May you be happy, healthy, safe, and strong.
Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions, my experiences, nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. If you’re in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[iii] If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline.[iv] You deserve support and to know someone has your back.
Copyright D.R. deLuis 2020
[i] Everything is better in Hawaii, of course, but there are festivals in cities across the US, as well.
[ii] Available in many versions, including this one https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/02/letter-from-a-birmingham-jail/552461/ in The Atlantic.
[iii] Most areas in the U.S. offer a “2-1-1” service that can provide information about local resources. In addition, one website (there are many) with info about finding an affordable therapist is Open Counseling at www.opencounseling.com .
[iv] National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To reach the Crisis Text Line in the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.