Yes, yes, I know it's Cyber Monday. But it's also Cities for Life Day, AKA Day for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty, and a bunch of similar names. It celebrates the anniversary of the first time the death penalty was abolished by a government, and I say YES to that! For the full story, which is very interesting, I refer you to the Checkiday.com description. Over 2,000 cities worldwide in 90 countries have Cities for Life observances.
Why did I pick this holiday, rather than any of the other options? (Check them out.) Because I don't believe in the death penalty, and I am ashamed that the United States still practice it. It is a punishment which, like all others in our justice system, falls more heavily on people of color. It is meted out unevenly, with the result that innocent people have been executed in our name. It does not deter crime; that has been proven over and over again. The United Nations General Assembly on this day once more passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. It passed by a vote of 120-39 (24 abstentions). The "sweet land of liberty", our "shining city on a hill", voted against it.
For more information, visit the website of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
I can’t decide between two holidays on today’s calendar: Small Brewery Sunday and National Square Dancing Day, so why not celebrate both?
First, let’s sing the praises of small local breweries. We are living in a golden age of local beer, and here in Maryland we enjoy an abundance of excellent small breweries. In a three mile stretch of U.S. Route 1 a short drive from our home, we can find three breweries, a meadworks, and a distillery making awesome gin and apple brandy. Featured here are our two favorite destinations, Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store (come for the fridge magnets, stay for the sours and IPAs) and Streetcar 82, one of a handful of deaf-owned and operated breweries in the country.
And square dancing? When I was a kid in Nebraska, that WAS phys. ed. In elementary school. I have always loved folk dancing, and there is something wonderful about the way that square dancing engages both the body and the brain — you have to listen to the caller, and a good caller keeps you on your toes, dancing and laughing. A few years ago there was a story circulating on the internet about how Henry Ford promoted square dancing as a white supremacist, anti Semitic reaction to the popularity of jazz. Ya know what? That might be why Henry Ford liked it, but I have a feeling that he would really hate the vibrantly queer square dance scene that has sprung up across the country. There is something lovely and hopeful about the transformation of something planted in hate that blossoms in love and joy. So take that, Henry Ford.
Everyone knows it's Black Friday, and lots of people know it's Buy Nothing Day. But how many have heard of Pins and Needles Day? Observed every November 27 by hardly anyone, Pins and Needles Day celebrates the opening of a pro-labor musical review by that name, produced in 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union at the Labor Stage Theater in New York. African American dancer Katherine Dunham directed a cast of ILGWU members. It ran for over 1100 performances, and was performed in the White House in 1938. In 1962, a commemorative studio album was released, featuring a very young Barbra Streisand in the lead. Here she is from the original cast album singing "Status Quo".
It's been revived and updated several times since, and everything about its story warms my heart. I've done piecework and other stitchery for a living (if you can call it that), and I have taught about the industrial revolution and unionization. If I had only known about Pins and Needles, those lectures could have had a soundtrack!
Maybe if enough people celebrate Pins and Needles Day, we can have another revival!
Some people have celebrated Thanksgiving in the same way for years. Not me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I celebrated with more than two generations and a band of cousins. When I was a kid, we lived in Nebraska, my mom's family were mostly on the west coast, and my dad's tiny family was clustered in South Jersey. So Thanksgiving was just the four of us, with maybe the addition of a random guest or two. After Jim and I got married, we stayed home for our first Thanksgiving, and invited a bunch of fellow students who were at loose ends. Then we had several years of trekking to Other People's Houses because we were the young couple with no kids. My parents divorced in the mid-1970s and Thanksgiving turned into an awkward dance, rationing ourselves out carefully so neither one felt slighted. After we moved to DC, we stopped traveling for Thanksgiving. Not only was it the WORST time to try to go anywhere, and the end of my semester (grading, final papers, panic), but Jim worked in the display department of a big downtown store and often worked overtime the weekend after Thanksgiving to trim the aisles and windows for Christmas. Our Thanksgiving has changed every few years; that's our "tradition".
For many people, this is a suddenly different Thanksgiving, but for us, it's just another chance to ensure the Important Things happen. There must be pie and stuffing. There must be time spent with friends. There must be gratitude.
There was definitely pie. I have had four pieces of pumpkin pie today, and will have more pie tomorrow. There was stuffing, though not enough. (Then again, I never get enough stuffing.) I had a wonderful phone call with a close friend, and we visited with a new neighbor down the hall. And there is gratitude. Gratitude for our new home, for safety, for health and humor, for opportunities to be of use. Gratitude for technologies that have made these months easier, gratitude for artists and musicians, gratitude for health care workers and for children and for cute animal videos.
When this is over, let's have a party. A big one, with lots of stuffing.
It's National Jukebox Day! The jukeboxes of my childhood had actual 45 rpm records stacked inside, so when you dropped in your coin you could watch the magic of a mechanical arm swinging out, picking your record, and playing it.
For those of you who like a little history, here's a handy timeline from TouchTunes makers of the first digital pay-for-play jukebox (1998). Of course, today I have a smartphone and access to a personal library of hundreds of recordings, no coin required. Still, there is something about watching sound come out of spinning vinyl, isn't there?
November 24 is Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day! (It’s also National Sardine Day, but I’ll pass.) Here’s how it is described on checkiday.com:
Everyone has a unique talent or skill at which they truly excel. Today is the day to embrace those quirky abilities and show them off to everyone else!
Here’s my list of special talents:
None of these is unique (another special talent of mine is vocabulary policing), but as they are part of what make me the individual I am. It would be the icing on the cake if I could talk like Donald Duck, or turn my eyelids inside out, like that kid I knew in fifth grade.
Dr. Who debuted on this date in (whew!) 1963, so November 23 has become an international holiday for the Whovians of this planet, and possibly others. I was late to the party, only starting to watch during the Matt Smith era. But it is one of my very favorite sci fi series, and I look forward to the annual Chistmas episodes. It was not easy to celebrate; a lot of the series is on subscription services, and I spent all my discretionary income on food bank and voting rights donations. But I watched a retrospective documentary on Amazon Prime, finally realizing who Rula Lenska was. (Only a few people will get THAT, but I am fine with obscure references.) And I read up on the history of Dr. Who, his adventures, and the wide world of Dr. Who fandom.
Resolution for next year: have some ginger beer on hand. It is apparently the thing to imbibe on Tardis Day.
My schedule for the coming week, if anyone wants to join the party:
11/23: Tardis Day (Dr. Who FTW!)
11/24: Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day
11/25: National Jukebox Day
11/26: Thanksgiving with my sweetie
11/27: Pins and Needles Day
11/28: French Toast Day
11/29: National Square Dance Day
The pickings for a holiday to celebrate are pretty slim today. I passed on Cranberry Relish Day, because we don't have any on hand and I have no plans to make any. (Not to mention the fact that I prefer the jelly that slides out of a can.) Start Your Own Country Day was tempting, but (1) probably specious and (2) too much work. For folks my age, November 22 is forever marked with the shock and sadness of lost innocence. I was 14, a freshman in high school, hanging out with my friends when we heard that President Kennedy was shot.
So I have settled on Go for a Ride Day as today's holiday. We will probably take a ride to a local brewery to restock our fridge. If I could take any ride, it would be on a train just at sundown.
Gingerbread is so wonderful, it actually has two holidays! But when the days are short and getting colder, that's gingerbread season for me. I celebrated by making a dozen gingerbread muffins, eating one, and giving the rest out to my new friends and neighbors on the 5th floor. (don't worry, I also made extra batter for non-muffinoid gingerbread).