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.
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.
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).
November 20 is my son's birthday, and it is also World Children's Day. Nothing shifted my consciousness quite like becoming a parent, and both of my children had a profound effect on me - and still do. The lessons I learned from them changed the way I taught my classes, and inspired my entire research journey into the relationship between clothing and gender. But even more important, their vulnerabilities and struggles heightened my awareness and concern for children in general. Some time ago, our choir performed a wonderful piece by UU composer Elizabeth Alexander titled "No Other People's Children".
No Other People's Children
So, in the spirit of World Children's Day, and in celebration of my son Danny, I donated to an organization that trains volunteers to be child advocates for abused and neglected children in our area. And in celebration of my own childhood, I am wearing my red sneakers and remembering the pure joy of recess.