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World Association of International Studies

Post Thoughts on Secular Holidays
Created by John Eipper on 12/10/19 3:20 AM

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Thoughts on Secular Holidays (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 12/10/19 3:20 am)

John Eipper commented on my last post: "Does [Tor Guimaraes's] God the Universe theology allow for holidays? Isn't there something fundamentally irrational and unscientific about making one day more significant than another?"

My God the Universe says that as long as we can afford it, and we are willing to work very hard for it, every day can be a holiday. We can get as creative as we want and commemorate anything we want, even indulge in superstitions just for fun. However, if you take any superstition too seriously it could become a detrimental distraction or even something hurtful to people who disagree with you. Have fun but be careful.

JE comments:  Can a day be special if there are no "normal" days to make it so?  How about any day can be a holiday?

Some secular holidays for December 10th:  Dewey Decimal System Day, Jane Addams Day, and (most important) International Human Rights Day.  Given our love of books, justice and dignity, I consider all three holidays very WAISly.

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  • What's the Deal with US Holidays? (Enrique Torner, USA 12/10/19 12:56 PM)
    Speaking about holidays, in Spain a holiday means nobody (or hardly anybody) works. Since I come from this perspective, US holidays have always puzzled me.

    There are holidays in which some people work, and others don't, and you never know if you are getting mail, but not getting your trash picked up, or the other way around. Universities work on some holidays when schools don't, and the other way around. Our university takes off on Martin Luther King Day, but not on Veterans' Day. Why is that? And then there are all these "secular holidays" that are hardly printed anywhere which I love that are no holidays at all: National Cookie Day (December 4 this year), National Doughnut Day (June 7), and so on, in which you can get a free donut or cookie if you go to certain places.  Of course, you end up buying more, so these ones make financial sense. But how do you explain the other "holidays"?

    Incidentally, "holiday" comes from "holy day." Whatever happened to the "holy" origin? It's evident that the religious origins of holidays have been taken over by pagan ones. But that started happening centuries ago, when English called "domingo" (from the Latin Day of the Lord) Sunday, the Day of the Sun.

    JE comments: More likely it's the other way around: Christian holidays originally "piggybacked" on pagan ones (Christmas for the winter solstice, etc.).

    In Spain, a "holiday" is a "día festivo" or the more generic "fiesta." Who doesn't love a party?  Spanish Americans prefer to say "días feriados," which literally are "market days."  Now they are the days when the markets tend to be closed.

    In a spasm of curiosity, I Googled "what nation celebrates the most holidays."  The answer astounded me, and a dozen donuts go to anyone who guesses without Googling.  As always, you're on your WAISly honor not to cheat.

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    • Who Wants a Dozen Donuts? (John Eipper, USA 12/11/19 6:06 AM)

      I've received two responses to yesterday's WAIS Quiz:

      What nation has the most official holidays?

      Ed Jajko guessed Japan.  Paul Rootare suggested Germany.  Close, but no donuts.

      Here's a hint:  it's not any of the former Axis powers.

      As always, the WAIS Honor Code applies.  No Googling allowed.

      A dozen donuts go to the winner.  I'm still unsure how to ship them.

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      • The Donut Contest: What Nation Has the Most Holidays? (Silvia Ribelles de la Vega, USA 12/12/19 2:57 AM)
        John E asked for WAISer guesses on the nation with the most official holidays.

        My vote is France. My brother lives in Paris and it seems as if they are having picnics day in and day out because they don't have to go to work.

        John, have fun in Cuba. Dipping your toes in the Caribbean must be such a treat at this time of the year!

        JE comments:  Great guess, Silvia, but sorry, no beignets.  Perhaps France is too secular?  There are eleven recognized holidays each year in France.  The US has ten.  The "champion" observes more holidays than both nations put together.

        I'll run a couple of other responses, but here's the spoiler:  we're still looking for the correct answer.

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      • The Donut Contest: Come Back Tomorrow? (Enrique Torner, USA 12/12/19 3:19 AM)
        Japan? Germany? Such efficient, hard-working countries? No way!

        The winner for most official holidays has to be Spain, the laziest country in the world, according to Mariano José de Larra's "Vuelva Usted mañana"! [Come back tomorrow].

        Send me those delicious donuts! Larra couldn't be wrong, could he?

        JE comments: Enrique, that's one of my favorite stories to teach.  Readers are invited to identify with Mr Sans-Délai, an exasperated Frenchman caught in endless Madrileño bureaucracy.  It's an absurdist and hilarious vignette.

        I too would have guessed Spain, or else Colombia, which turns out to be tied for fifth. Both countries always seem to be celebrating something. The Hispanic nations are also big on the "puente" (bridge), which involves extending a holiday by a few days. The granddaddy of bridging occurs in Seville, where the "Feria" comes two weeks after Easter/Holy Week. The result? Nothing gets done in the week between.

        But lazy?  Enrique, partying this hard is hard work!

        Spain observes "only" eight holidays nationally, although local holidays add up to a total of 12.

        Want to know the winner?  I could ask you to Come Back Tomorrow, but I'll post the answer before we board the plane for Cuba.

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      • Another Try for the Donuts (Edward Jajko, USA 12/12/19 3:39 AM)

        What about the Vatican State? Every day is a commemoration of at least one saint.  Some days commemorate All Saints or All Souls; and throughout the year there are special days like Christmas and Easter.

        JE comments:  Today, December 12th, the saint is a biggie:  Guadalupe, Patroness of the All the Americas.  Our Orthodox friends celebrate the slightly more obscure St Spyridon the Wonderworker.  He healed the incurably sick, and cast out demons on the side.  Impressive!

        Ed, I believe I still owe you lunch for a lost sports wager or two (moral:  never bet on Detroit teams), but you'll have to get your own donuts.  Really sorry about that.

        I'll accept submissions until 2 PM today, US Eastern.

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      • Want Donuts? Look towards Asia (Alan Levine, USA 12/12/19 4:03 AM)
        As for the country with the most public holidays, I'll guess Bhutan or India or Nepal.

        JE comments: Alan, this is the closest guess so far. You're thinking outside the box, but--ouch--not quite enough to score a box of donuts.  It turns out that India is tied for third (with Kazakhstan), with 21 official holidays.

        As for Bhutan, it frequently ranks among the world's happiest nations, even without donuts.

        So I've partially let the donut out of the box:  the winning country (with 28 annual holidays) is Asian.


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      • Still Another Shot at the Donut Prize (Brian Blodgett, USA 12/12/19 5:08 AM)
        Going off a completely scientific line of reasoning, I figured the winner for the most public holidays would be a country that has a high percent of people with the same religion. As for which religion, I would think Catholicism and then Brazil.

        (I would have picked Italy, but John said it was not any of the former Axis powers.)

        JE comments: You are partially on the right track, Brian. The "winner" is religiously homogeneous, at 97%.  But (hint hint) it's not a Christian country.

        At the same time, a tolerant nation of religious diversity would automatically have more holidays. Think of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist days and celebrating them all.

        Brazil has only eight holidays nationally, although there are state and municipal events.

        One takeaway from the Holiday Quiz:  WAISers are motivated by donuts!  We'll soon be heading to Canada to catch the plane for Cuba.  Must stop at Tim Horton's on the way.  We have T Ho's on this side of the border, too, but there's nothing like the genuine article.

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      • The Donut Prize? Almost There... (David Duggan, USA 12/12/19 8:47 AM)

        I'm going to guess Malaysia.

        JE comments:  We're getting very warm. Malaysia and our Holiday Nation do share a common neighbor.  If my geography serves me, we've now limited the pool to three.

        I'll give the answer in two hours, from the Windsor (Ontario) airport.

        A reminder:  for the next seven days, please direct incoming WAIS posts to jeipper@waisworld.org.  Hitting "reply" to this e-mail will not work.


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      • Holiday Special: The Winner Is... (John Eipper, USA 12/12/19 11:31 AM)
        So what country has the most public holidays?

        My comments on David Duggan's post limited the candidates to nations sharing a border with Malaysia's neighbor. I had Thailand in mind for that neighbor, which would make the finalists Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. (I just checked the map, and Papua New Guinea also shares a neighbor with Malaysia: Indonesia.  But you can't drive there.)

        Either way, the winner is...Cambodia, with 28 public holidays.

        Donuts to WAISer Alan Levine, who wrote:  "OK, John, you're narrowing it down considerably! Sharing a common border
        with Malaysia means Thailand is the connecting link and that means it
        has to be Burma, Laos, or Cambodia. Burma has been facing various forms
        of civil war for a long time, so I'm going to guess it isn't that. So
        50/50: I'll guess Cambodia. Maybe they have a bunch of holidays going
        back to the Angkor Wat epoch. Donuts?"

        Yes Alan, donuts for you!  Sitting here in Canada, I'll see if Tim Horton's delivers as far as DC.  Honorable Mention goes to Harry Papasotiriou in Athens, who guessed the correct answer 31 minutes later.  Shipping to Greece will be trickier, but Harry:  how about lunch when we next meet?

        Let's look over the impressive list of Cambodian holidays:


        The king alone gets three days for his birthday, plus his coronation day. In addition, the royal mother and father each have their respective birthdays, for a total of six. Add to this the Royal Plowing ceremony, four days for remembering your ancestors, Victory over Genocide day, and a host of others, and you have a busy calendar. That's more than five work weeks.

        Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the horrors (and presumably, dearth of holidays) under Pol Pot?

        According to the link above, today is a normal day in Cambodia.  They're still recovering from International Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

        Congratulations, Alan and Harry!  We board the plane for Cuba in a few minutes.  Please remember to send incoming posts to my "private" WAIS address:  jeipper@waisworld.org

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