OPINION: Let us not forget the true meaning of holidays

Ethan Vassar

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

Traditionally, it was standard fare for ancient cultures to sacrifice a goat, cow, or virgin to appease a god during celebration or holiday. Compare that with today’s standard of getting ‘shitfaced’ at any holiday celebration, those were much simpler times.


Drinking and partying has become the best way to enjoy and celebrate holidays. No matter the origin or original reason for observance, Americans have a knack for turning it into an excuse to party.

Halloween is the perfect example of a holiday-turned-drinking excuse. The ritual of dressing up in costume originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain during a time of superstition. The Celts believed that on the night of October 31st, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Believing these spirits would damage their crops, and infect the population, Celts would dress up in costume to scare the spirits away and become less recognizable to ghosts. This all stems from the seasonal change from a warm, sunny Summer, to a dark, dreary and cold Winter.

Protestant beliefs did not allow this early concept of Halloween, so it was not practiced much in the American colonies. It was not until the mid 1800s that Halloween began to take shape. America was experiencing a surge of Irish immigration at the time, and Irish tradition blended with American fall harvests to create a trick or treat like practice of dressing up in costume and going door to door. By the late 1800s, Halloween was less about witchcraft and evil spirits and more about neighborly gatherings. A way of coming together before the dark and cold winter, ready to face it together.

Today, I doubt anyone is dressing up as a slutty bunny to deplore evil spirits from infecting their crops. When it comes down to it, Halloween is just one of the many holidays, celebrations, and days of observance that have been re-imagined as a culturally acceptable time to get shitfaced.

Cinco de mayo is another example, and a holiday America essentially stole from Mexico. In celebration of Mexico’s victory in  a battle of the Franco-Mexican War, Americans appropriate Mexican culture. It seems Americans are so desperate for an excuse to get shitfaced that we’re stealing other culture’s days of observance.

St. Patrick’s day is an even darker example. St. Patrick’s day essentially commemorates the spiritual genocide of all of Northern Ireland. 

How soon until we’ll be getting drunk in the name of American tragedy?

American has a habit of turning everything into an excuse to party. Are we really that desperate for a distraction from the reality of our world? The short answer is yes. Holidays are increasingly becoming a needed distraction from the perceived painfully mundane reality. Holidays exist as a way to numb oneself from all the bullshit the world has to offer. Alcohol obviously does the trick. It’s an unspoken assumption that holidays are a form of cultural amnesia, but like most of life’s unspoken assumptions, it’s wrong and potentially ruinous.

There’s arguably no group of people more depressed, stressed, and hassled that college students. More so than anywhere else, the idea of drinking to celebrate a holiday is more practiced and accepted on college campuses. So much of our perceived world is grim and dull that holidays become crucial to our enjoyment. College students seem to take any opportunity handed to them to numb themselves to what they believe their reality to be. Often times, this opportunity comes in the form of  holidays. It wouldn’t surprise me if students pre-game Tour de Corgi next year. 

So I encourage you, the two people still reading this article, to try and remember that holidays are supposed to be reorienting, remind you that bad shit was overcome in the past and bad shit still can be overcome today. As winter holidays begin to get closer, remember that every culture has a celebration, as if to say “Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.”


Ethan Vassar can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @E_Vassar