We're smack in the middle of the holiday season -- that stretch of months between October and January when most of the best holidays on the calendar happen. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Chanukah, and New Year's, one after another. It's like we treated holidays like sick days that don't roll over, so we jammed a bunch of them into the ass-end of the year before they expire.
This got me thinking about holidays themselves. Halloween recently passed, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but I feel like these days used to mean more when I was a kid. There was more excitement in the air, an unseen but always-felt energy surrounding holidays that I still feel in my adult life but isn't as potent or focused now. Holidays either don't age well in the time between childhood and adulthood, or the joy remains the same but the purpose of the day changes entirely. The subtle shift can be seen in such beloved holidays like ...
#5. Halloween: An Excuse to Buy All the Candy You Shame Yourself Into Not Buying Every Other Day of the Year
Jennifer Barrow/iStock/Getty Images
When You're a Kid:
One day a year, kids get to dress like their favorite fictional character, walk around at night as they're told never to do, and receive candy for free. That's the Shangri-La a child would hallucinate and reach toward right before they pass out from a sugar rush in a world where Halloween doesn't exist. It also kind of sounds like a pedophile's perfect world.
When You're an Adult:
Halloween takes a turn away from costumes and spookiness when you reach the age where time spent working and sitting on your ass for eight-plus hours a day leads to an increase in laziness and pant size. Only kids can slam that much sugar in their heads and not end up feeling like a fleshy Katamari ball that propels itself with directional thrusters made of burps and farts. Halloween for adults becomes the one time a year a so-called "responsible adult" has something that somehow resembles justification for buying candy by the pound. Kids might show up! The candy must be purchased for the appeasement of the kids!
There ain't no kids. OK, maybe one party of an Iron Man and a kid dressed like a modern-day sexy vampire, but not enough to justify what appears to have been your cut after an armed robbery of Willy Wonka's factory. After months of restraint, months of holding back your most gluttonous, base instincts to slam every junky piece of candy within sight into your body, and months of using every excuse your brain can muster -- from weight gain to health risks to cavities -- there comes one day with a built-in pro-candy argument so convincing it obliterates every excuse you've got. Halloween is about candy, and if you don't buy candy you're technically a joyless asshole.
"Candy. Candy. Candy. Halloween. Candy. Candy."
*standing ovation from jury*
And so, the day has changed. The candy used to be the treat your parents would allow you to gorge on for a small window every year. Now, the candy is the self-flagellating shame filth you shove in your sopping, gaping maw like Gollum in the fetal position in a dark cave holding the ring after weeks of ring withdrawals.
#4. Christmas: An Exhausting Exercise in Convincing Yourself You're All Right With How Shitty Gifts Have Become
Lasse Kristensen/iStock/Getty Images
When You're a Kid:
Christmas seems like it was invented after years of rigorous focus-testing and R&D by a multinational corporate conglomerate in an effort to create one day that can bring maximum fun to children and maximum profits to all of their corporate subsidiaries (the company's, not the children's corporate subsidiaries). For most, especially kids, it's a celebration of cartoon characters that culminates with a bounty of gifts beneath a tree that, for reasons no one can explain without researching it, is in our living room and decorated like a tree version of a Vegas showgirl.
A herd of Christmas trees.
Whether Santa is still real in a kid's mind or not, the magic of Christmas is real. The whimsy of the day is real. The unbridled, child-like innocence is real. And it's all mostly caused by the totally awesome toys and video games you get to unwrap on Christmas morning. Let's face it: materialism is kinda fun.
When You're an Adult:
Almost no gift received on Christmas day as an adult will bring as much joy as the gifts from a childhood Christmas. There's so little an adult could want that can bring out the same level of the nearly chemically induced mega-joy of a kid unwrapping a Ninja Turtle action figure, or a Nintendo 64.
Adult Christmas is mostly a bite-your-lip-and-bare-it affair. Maybe someone will splurge and get you an iPad, or even a PlayStation 4, and you'll jump for joy when you see the packaging as you rip away the wrapping paper. But assuming you have a job, there's a good chance you've already bought those things for yourself. A job and a steady cash flow take all the surprise out of Christmas gifts. You've got most of what you could want, and you bought it seven months before Christmas because who's going to stop you?
So what's left to surprise you? Your loved ones have nothing to pick from other than the crumbs and scraps of your interests. Their shopping list has been whittled down to all the things that you've passed over on store shelves on your way to buying the things you would have been given for free if you would have waited a few more months.
The empty shelves of your materialistic desires.
In the end, it's not at all a bad thing. Christmas as a kid is like eating an entire unsliced pizza in one sitting. As an adult, you're slicing it into equal triangles and eating it as needed. But clearly, one of those is way more fun than the other.
#3. 4th of July: Getting Drunk Because, OK Sure, Why Not? America?
Joe Biafore/iStock/Getty Images
When You're a Kid:
Fireworks. That's the 4th of July as a kid. It's the id of the American holidays. It's primal. Shit blows up, and we cook dead things over open flame. Children are a loincloth away from being feral anyway, so the 4th of July fits right into what they expect out of life. Unlike the other holidays, where magic and whimsy play a big part in our pleasant memories, the 4th of July is all danger. It's stories of cousins blowing their hands apart, uncles too drunk to realize they're on fire, and massive Roman candle shootouts that make Harry and Voldemort casting spells look like two losers waving sparklers.
When You're an Adult:
The id remains, it just shifts focus. Fireworks are still there. Just now they aren't as fun. The novelty of exploding colors has worn a bit. But there is one way to make them fun again, a way that only adulthood can offer: getting rip-shit drunk. The priorities of July 4th are restructured, and now getting wasted on America's birthday is more important than cooking the dead over flame, watching things go boom, and America itself.
You bastards better be saluting this stock photo right now.
It's not a very well-defined holiday. There's not much built in to it that tells us how to celebrate it. On Thanksgiving you give thanks. On Halloween you be spooky. On Christmas you Jesus. But how, exactly, do you celebrate a landmass? Presumably, it went like this: with no built-in rules of celebration, we drank to get our creative juices flowing to come up with a good idea, and then drank more, and then drank again. After a few drinks we said, "Fuck planning -- let's get wrecked. Hey, who's got a cannon we can shoot at the sky?"
Oooh. So that's how they make fireworks colorful.
Just like sacrificing a goat or a virgin to appease a god was standard fare for primitive cultures, looking at an American flag and occasionally tipping a can of Coors at it as a sign of respect for a cheap thing from China made of low-grade napkin cloth is the American version of a high honor. It's the best we've ever come up with -- and it will never be beaten; we're too drunk to try.