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The one holiday that works


All of our holidays have been thoroughly corrupted by now. The Fourth of July is all about organized eating and expensive fireworks, not the celebration of our nation’s independence. Thanksgiving is for truly serious eating, not gratitude for another adequate harvest. The shoppers who keep America mighty have finally begun to take over Halloween as another chance to decorate. And Christmas? A magical celebration of the birth of mass marketing.

Labor Day is way off target, too. Nobody ponders the social benefits of labor unions, and nobody honors the virtues of work in general. But let’s give it a break, because as a holiday, it’s just about perfect. That’s because it’s so simple.

No shopping, no decorating, no cards to send. You don’t have to cooperate or compete. You don’t have to do anything.

Someday, some marketing executives will start a push to commercialize Labor Day. When they do, don’t let them get away with it.

As it stands, the Labor Day weekend – “weekend” being the key to any decent holiday – not only gives us a break, it marks the change of seasons that’s more important than any other on the calendar, no matter what Jan. 1 might say.

For some of us, this part of the calendar always seems like the real beginning of a new year.

The feeling dates back to school days, no doubt, when summer vacation ended and you went off to an exciting new grade with new teachers in new rooms – and even your classmates seemed new. Some of them managed to change quite dramatically over the three-month summer break.

When you become a parent, the feeling returns with a twist. You don’t have to sit through classes and take tests, but you do get assignments: Show up for parent-teacher conferences and, when the kids are little, delightful open houses filled with neat desks and wacky drawings. Go to concerts and games. It’s your chance to be part of the school tradition one more time.

Also, it’s almost impossible to ignore the power of a new football season. Start with crisp Friday nights, mix in beautiful Saturday and Sunday afternoons –and then add gambling. You wind up with a football-based society.

So if your summer didn’t turn out to be the magical fun ride we think it’s supposed to be, if it seemed a bit heavy on sweat, bug bites and crowds, take comfort. Labor Day is almost here. Happy new year.

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