In America, a holiday amounts to little more than a day off from work and a few quiet beers. It turns out that we're really dropping the ball when it comes to finding excuses to party like there's no tomorrow. We should take some lessons from how the rest of the world spends their day off from work, like ...
#6. Rouketopolemos -- Xtreme Easter
Even if you don't celebrate Easter, you're at least familiar with it as the boring pseudo-Christmas that comes along in the first half of the year. You don't get any presents, but you have Easter egg hunts, which often go hand-in-hand with a church picnic, fair or some other kind of clean, constructive activity.
Like raining hellfire.
However, ask someone from the Greek town of Vrontados about Easter and you'll probably trigger a 'Nam flashback. This is all thanks to the Panagia Erithiani and Agios Markos churches and their annual tradition of Rouketopolemos, which translates directly to "Rocket War," which is exactly what it sounds like.
"Peace be with y -- EAT ROCKET!"
Rouketopolemos is just a giant unregulated rocket fight between the two aforementioned churches. At midnight before Easter Sunday, the congregations of Panagia Erithiani and Agios Markos go up to their respective bell towers, located on hilltops 400 meters apart. They prepare launching ramps full of homemade projectile explosives before unleashing the Kracken on their cross-town rivals.
"The Lord is my heat-seeking rocket. I shall not miss."
To win the game, you must hit the opposing church's bell more times than they hit yours, though honestly if you make it through the night with all 10 fingers intact, go ahead and declare yourself a winner. While shit does get pretty damn real on the ground, the real best view in the house is only for the ultra ballsy: right next to the fucking bell.
The next day, after all the inevitable forest fires have been put out, the two churches compare scores, each declaring themselves the winner and vowing to settle the score next year. Ah, tradition.
Of course, not everyone in town is thrilled with this celebration, as much time must be spent each year fireproofing houses and shops that might get winged during the festivities.
"Nothing glorifies God like secondhand shrapnel."
But they shouldn't bitch. Today's version of Rouketopolemos is much tamer than it was back before the Ottoman era, when it was celebrated with motherfucking real-ass cannons.
#5. Father's Day from the People Who Brought You Oktoberfest
Quick -- what did you get your dad last Father's Day? A tie? No wonder he never came back when he said he was just leaving to pick up cigarettes. And to think, all this could have been avoided if only you lived in Germany.
See, the German people understand that a dad doesn't want the same breakfast-in-bed bullshit that passes on Mother's Day. Instead, their version of Father's Day, Vatertag, is celebrated in a manner that appeals to much more manly dudes.
They come for the beer. They stay because alcohol poisoning has rendered them immobile.
Alternatively known as Mannertag (Men's Day) or, if you add monocles, Herrentag (Gentleman's Day), this holiday is not exclusive to fathers only, as they celebrate it alongside their sons, relatives, friends and anyone else who is fun to get drunk with and attached to a penis. Truly, it is an epic bro sesh.
"Better watch out, Hans. You're lager behind!"
The whole shebang revolves around two things all men love: beer and not asking for directions. Guys pack up plenty of their favorite hoppy-wheaty beverage and wander off into the countryside, sipping all the way.
We're gonna need a bigger cart.
To facilitate the journey, groups first must construct a Bollerwagen to drag their alcohol along in, with designs ranging from the purely functional to, dare we say, downright beautiful.
"This cart is my proudest accomplishment. My children? Eh, they're alright."
As they follow their group's leader, or fuhrer, on a hike through the wilderness, the guys take turns pulling the cart. Dad said it builds character. As the hike becomes a walk and the walk becomes a stumble, the cart gets lighter and lighter, and once all the sweet, sweet brain-cell destroying nectar is gone, the boys head home. Mannertag accomplished!
Though this is clearly one the most awesome parts of German culture, there are some repressed boring losers in the German government who think the holiday needs to be changed to focus more on a father's responsibility to his family. Whatever. On the bright side, having "the man" try to shut your party down really cements the fact that it simply rocks too hard.
"Go ahead and try to take it, asshole. See what happens."
#4. Purim -- A Two-Day Halloween Where Drinking Is Mandatory
Purim is a Jewish holiday, and as such, it celebrates the same thing all Jewish holidays celebrate: narrowly escaping genocide. Back in the days of the Persian Empire, a bigwig named Haman was going to wipe out the Jews because one refused to bow to him.
Something like this.
Luckily for our skull-capped friends, a spicy she-Jew named Esther happened to be boning the Persian king. The story goes that Esther made moves like a wily sorority girl, throwing a weekend-long party to get the king good and liquored up so he'd take it well when she revealed she was Jewish, which in those times would have been approximately on par with admitting she was a dude. The king was momentarily conflicted, but then remembered that Esther had boobs. He reversed the mass execution orders, having Haman killed instead. L'chaim.
Today, Jewish folks celebrate that they still exist by getting dressed up in costumes as a nod to Esther's hidden identity like some kind of Hasidic Halloween. For ultra-observant Jews, it's the only chance they get to really let their ear-locks down, and they don't waste it on weak gefilte fish.
The guy in the background is not actually in costume.
On Purim, observant worshipers are commanded to get blackout drunk. Literally commanded. As it is written in the Talmud, the official book of Jewish law, "A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordechai'."
What a dedicated scholar of rabbinical texts.
The thing that makes this booze bonanza truly epic is that thanks to the Hebrew calendar it starts one night and then continues through the entire next day, like all good keggers. Keep in mind, if you're doing it right, your ass is going to be wasted beyond the point of comprehension the whole time. We can only speculate what that Manischewitz hangover feels like.
Manischewitz: Don't just get drunk. Get Jew drunk.