A friend recently posed a theory about my birthday. Because it's in September, he pointed out that my parents -- and at this point I put my fingers in my ears and sang "la-la-la, I'm not listening" -- must have had a rockin' New Year's Eve. (Ick.) And judging by my fondness for all things fermented, he posited that they must have had a lot of champagne.
Annoyed as I was, I paused to wonder: Does a rockin' New Year's Eve -- or any other holiday -- always have to involve lots of drinking?
It's true that alcohol plays a large part in many holidays. New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Independence Day -- you get the idea. We tend to be extravagant when we have an occasion to celebrate. We sip hard eggnog at Christmas; beer on Memorial Day; smoking dry-ice green punch on Halloween; margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.
There are random holidays specifically based on a drink or spirit, including National Tequila Day (July 24), National Rum Day (Aug. 16), National Daquiri Day (July 19), National Pina Colada Day (July 10) and World Cocktail Day (May 13). There's also cause to celebrate the "fifth" of every month as an official drinking holiday. It makes sense and gives you an idea of what to buy at the liquor store.
Don't forget the Jewish spring holiday of Purim, because the Talmud actually commands that you drink heartily on that occasion.
But then my friend Josh totally kiboshed my parade. He told me I couldn't technically count every holiday on which people drink as a "drinking holiday." It's not the point of the celebration, he said.
And that got me thinking. Most holidays celebrate something separate from alcohol. But the essence of celebration involves toasting, clinking glasses and cork-popping. How can you separate the ringing in of a new year from the midnight champagne toast?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the essence of celebration is just that -- celebrating. Smiling, enjoying and sharing the experience with others. Whether it's your impending 29th birthday (sorry, had to keep from throwing up for a second), or your friend's wedding. Whether it's the purchase of a new home or the arrival of a new life. Celebrating means shouting to the world that you're so happy you could just burst.
And yes, often that includes alcohol, because for some of us, it makes things more festive. It also enhances the happiness -- when used in moderation. But, that doesn't mean it's essential. A special occasion is special, however you decide to spend it. Maybe my parents were just so much in love they couldn't wait.
Whatever your preference, a big holiday -- Labor Day -- is fast approaching. It cause for honoring those who work hard throughout the year. Enjoy it with friends, a boat, a beer or a briss -- I'm won't judge. But when I think of laboring citizens who give us working stiffs a day devoted to loafing, I think they'll approve of a little letting-loose as we kick up our feet and knock a few back.
And I, my friends, am not going to let them down.