Find special day, make it your own

We hear a lot of talk this time of year about the holidays. This includes a variety of events, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. Sometimes these holidays can be stressful with traveling and trying to visit as many people as possible.

Other times you can feel down because you feel like everyone is having a better time than you.

(I think of my issues with New Year’s Eve. Half my friends don’t want to do anything at all, and the other half who actually do stuff already have plans.)

There are other days that get a lot of attention that also aren’t high on my list of priorities. I live in a college town, so between the weird outfits and the copious drinking, you’d think every weekend is both Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day with a touch of Mardi Gras thrown in.

I’m sort of on the fence about Valentine’s Day. I don’t like the emphasis on romance, flowers, jewelry and overpriced dinners. But I do enjoy getting boxes of children’s Valentines from the dollar store and sending them out to my family and friends. Everyone needs a little kindergartner love every once in a while.

But what about all those underrated holidays that we never hear about? Those are some of my favorites. April Fool’s Day has to top the list. Playing practical jokes on your loved ones? My family tends to be a bit skeptical, so if you can put one over on one of them then you’ve really done a good job.

Another one is Groundhog Day. How can you not get excited about a holiday that celebrates a small furry weather-prognosticating rodent? Most holidays have colors associated with them, but I think this one should be all about texture: wear something fuzzy on this day.

I’ve often thought it would be fun to have a Groundhog Day breakfast. Maybe I could gather a group of people at a local restaurant and convince the proprietor to tune in to the broadcast from Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania so that we can see Punxsutawney Phil make his proclamation. (Did you know Phil has his own website?

My church has a St. Nicholas Night every year. This is an exciting time for the little kids — we have cookies, hot spiced cider and chocolate coins that appear in the children’s shoes while St. Nicholas is visiting. (They take their shoes off first, just FYI).

The real St. Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop from Asia Minor, although today he tends to get confused with our modern Santa Claus. The little ones are completely spellbound with his stories. One year I recited “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” almost from memory. The story doesn’t really have anything to do with St. Nicholas, but it was a lot of fun.

My dad has done taxes for many years, so April 15 is practically a holiday in my family. Earth Day is April 22 and has celebrations in Bloomington ranging from an environmental fair in Dunn Meadow to a parade (one that I saw included an alpaca.) Also in April is Arbor Day. When Theodore Roosevelt issued the proclamation in 1907 to make it a holiday, he encouraged school children to plant trees.

The summer and winter solstices are the longest and shortest days of the year and are historically marked with bonfire parties. My sister’s old neighborhood would have block parties (without bonfires) on these days so as to have a community celebration that wouldn’t be tied to a particular religious tradition.

Then there are the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, which I remember as a kid as being the days in which you can balance an egg on its end. (You can do it on the other days of the year too. I did it while writing this article, but no one was watching.) In some countries, the spring equinox is when the new year is celebrated.

Last but not least, there is March 14. For those who are mathematically inclined, you will recognize this as Pi Day. As you might hope, it is commemorated by eating pie so all the non-left-brained people can enjoy it, too.

If the holidays at this time of year don’t appeal to you, then remember that there are many more out there to choose from. Find one you can identify with and make it your own. Or create a new one. Start your own celebration and invite everyone to share it with you.

Stephanie Haines of Bloomington is a Greenfield native. She can be reached through her website,