We Need to Stop Calling Every Holiday “Happy”

April 18, 2014 / by / 53 Comments

This morning, I was surprised to find that “Happy Good Friday” was trending on Twitter. What? Good Friday isn’t happy. It’s the day Jesus was crucified. You know, Jesus, the guy who looked like Rocco from Boondock Saints and is considered by many to be the singular savior of all mankind? Yeah, today’s the day he was executed. That seems like a less than happy occasion. Maybe this is one of those “It’s a Catholic thing, you wouldn’t understand” situations,1 but more likely, we’ve gotten into an unfortunate habit of classifying every holiday as “happy,” when in reality, many holidays aren’t actually that happy.

Think about it. What does your significant other say on Valentine’s Day? 2 “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Thanks babe, I hope you also enjoy this great holiday. Let’s cuddle up on the couch and reflect on this great and joyous day, honoring a martyr who was wrongfully executed. You didn’t know that? That’s understandable, seeing as most people associate the holiday with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of the bloodiest events of the 1920s. And to think, the romantic origins of the holiday can be traced back almost 700 years, to the marriage of two 15-year-olds in the High Middle Ages! Anyway, I’m rambling. I hope you have a happy day. Today just offers so much happiness to go around.

What about Memorial Day? There’s nothing like a good, happy Memorial Day. In fact, Memorial Day is so happy that I sometimes just can’t decide which part of it makes me the happiest. Maybe it’s remembering the Civil War, during which hundreds of thousands of Americans died fighting their brothers and cousins. Maybe it’s remembering World War I, during which thousands of young men spent months living in their own piss and shit before finally getting to sprint into a solid wall of machine guns. Although I must admit, it’s hard for any of my thoughts during Memorial Day to make me happier than the Vietnam War, during which an entire generation of Americans was forced to fight an unwinnable war with no moral justification, before returning to a country that had labeled them murderers and villains. God damn, I can’t stop smiling, because Memorial Day is such a fucking happy holiday.

Hell, I don’t even think we have enough holidays to make us happy. Let’s start recognizing more happy holidays! We’re a couple weeks late to celebrate Happy MLK Assassination Day, but in June, we can all have a Happy D-Day, and smile fondly as we remember the 5,000 young men that got shot down that day. In the fall, we can all have a Happy Columbus Day, just like the now-extinct indigenous peoples did when he showed up 500 years ago. Then, after we celebrate a Happy Veteran’s Day (because nothing is happier than people making tremendous sacrifices for our country, then being crippled by psychological and physical trauma and a marked lack of support from the very government that sent them overseas to kill people) we can celebrate a Happy JFK Assassination Day. Man, American history is just a bastion of happiness, isn’t it?

Here’s my point: celebration doesn’t equate to happiness. Nothing is wrong with setting aside a day to celebrate our religious or historical traditions, but we should stop gravitating toward the word “happy” when we acknowledge them; it trivializes the meaning of the holidays, and can be a barrier to a proper perception and celebration of these holidays. And I’m not suggesting we pull out a thesaurus and assign a special adjective to each holiday. We can just say “good.” We can have a good Memorial Day, because it is inherently good for us to celebrate the legacy of those who have fought and given their lives for our country. But it isn’t happy. Sure, Easter and Christmas can be happy, but holidays with a more dichotomous and complex history (read: most holidays) should be treated as such. So, to those of you who celebrate it, have a thoughtful and meaningful Good Friday. Don’t have a Happy Good Friday. Only Pontius Pilate has a Happy Good Friday.