As federal holidays go, there are few more worthy than next week's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But unless black people celebrate the good doctor's achievements with some raucous party I'm not invited to -- entirely possible, since I'm whiter than a Cheers cast reunion -- it's not exactly the most rocking holiday of the year.
And let's be honest: When we're circling days off on our desk calendars, most of us don't get misty-eyed thinking about the sacrifices made that led to our three-day weekend (and, more important, our four-day work weeks). Instead, we're thinking about which bar might announce a progressive-pitcher promotion for Sunday night, and which end of our couch we'll be denting come Monday (or whatever day we have off).
So here -- at the risk of being torn limb by limb by an angry (but diverse!) crowd of civil-rights activists, Korean war veterans and fourth-graders who still think Christopher Columbus is a national hero -- we rank the holidays*, worst to best.
*Some holidays not included (Jewish ones, mostly. I can never figure when those are.)
13. Veterans Day Day/Date: Wednesday, November 11 Chances you have it off: Not very good, unless you work for the Feds, and even then you probably have to go to a parade or something. Obligated Reflection: Decent amount, especially in war time or if you live near a city park. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: None, and even if there was, Veterans would get all the ass that night anyway.
12. Christmas Day/Date: Friday, December 25 Chances you have it off: Pretty darn good, unless you drive a snow plow or run a Chinese restaurant on the Lower East Side. Obligated Reflection: Tons. It's a Christian nation, you know. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Zero. Sure, you technically have the day off, maybe even two. But those days involve more labor than most anyone's average workday: fighting mall traffic, fake-smiling your way through present-opening, evading your wayward aunt's drunk-cheek-kissing missions, etc. No one goes out that night, and even if you do find a party, you can hardly bring home a chick with cousin Barry sleeping on the blow-up mattress at your mom's place. And there's no football on. You call that a holiday, JC?
11. St. Patrick's Day Day/Date:Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Chances you have it off: None. Although there's a good chance your liver has already asked your boss if it can take a half day. Obligated Reflection: Very little, which is too bad. Whatever meaning this holiday once held was long ago destroyed by fake-Irish people and fake-Irish bars who seem to think being Irish is about dressing in green, drinking for sixteen hours, puking, and sleeping with the heavy girl from accounting, when every good Irishman knows that being Irish is about drinking for sixteen hours, not puking, and arguing with the heavy girl from accounting about rugby. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: None. Everyone's too drunk, no one looks cute in green, and even if you find someone you like, you'll have to take her home before 3 p.m. if you'll want to avoid felony charges.
10. Valentine's Day Day/Date:Saturday, February 14 Chances you have it off: This year, great: It's on Saturday. Obligated Reflection:None, unless you consider devising ways to fire-bomb the Hallmark world headquarters "reflection." Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Scant. If you're even on the verge of dating anyone, your night surely will be ruined by a bland, fixed-price menu at your sixth-favorite restaurant followed by two forced cocktails and two forced rolls in the sheets. If you're single (and if you're still reading this, you probably are), it's a mixed bag. You'd think it'd be a great night to get drunk and hook up. But I predict that thoughts of love and devotion, forced upon us by cardmakers and our moms, will leave us all alone in our underwear simultaneously downloading porn and Facebooking our exes.
9. Columbus Day Day/Date: Monday, October 12 Chances you have it off: Not good, unless you're a student, in which case your whole life is a holiday -- so stop gloating, asshole. Obligated Reflection: Too much, and you have to explain to your friend who hasn't read anything since seventh grade why it's not all it was cracked up to be and...ugh. Is it Tuesday yet? Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Man. I haven't been to a good Columbus Day party in years.
8. Presidents' Day Day/Date:Monday, February 16 Chances you have it off: Okay, but it's February. You would go skiing, but the bank's not open so you can't get a loan for your lift ticket, so instead you watch a Rock of Love marathon and feel vaguely hung over afterward. No thanks. Obligated Reflection: I have a feeling that this year, every day's gonna be President's Day. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: I'm seeing a Sunday-night Colonial Throw-Down, where everyone dresses up like Washington and drinks Washington Apples and -- check that. I'm staying in.
7. Martin Luther King Day Jr. Day/Date: Monday, January 19 Chances you have it off: Decent. And if you don't, simply respond to everything your boss says -- from "Yes, we have work today" to "Can you please put your pants back on" -- by calling them a racist, reciting the phone number of your local NAACP, and spending the rest of the day surfing Hulu. Obligated Reflection: What are you, racist? Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Not much, unless you live near a bar that wisely capitalizes on your community's alcoholism by throwing a killer Sunday-night party. But even without it, MLK Day beats some others because there's nothing negative -- no crowds, no pressure, no family. And if you can't find merriment in a quiet Monday, you don't deserve a holiday.
6. New Year's Eve/Day Day/Date: Thursday, December 31/Friday, January 1, 2010 Chances you have it off: New Year's Eve: Decent. New Year's Day: Great, unless you work for a fascist or the USC football team. Obligated Reflection: Way. Too. Much. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Less than you would think. Perhaps the most overrated holiday, the possibilities of New Year's Eve are often crippled by inflated expectations, the pressure of a ticking clock and a severe lack of dress pants. By contrast, New Year's Day -- if you don't wake up too hung over or on the floor of the city jail -- is vastly underrated, with no parties, no family and no one to talk to but your bookie and the young running back dashing across your flat-screen on the way to covering the minus 14.5 points.
5. Independence Day Day/Date: Saturday, July 4 (which means you get Friday, July 3, off of work) Chances you have it off: What are you, Canadian? Obligated Reflection: Very little. Throw up some bunting and turn on the Yankees game and you'll be good. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Lots. Although often hampered by an unexplainable obsession with seeing colorful fire shooting through the air, it's saved by hot weather, ubiquitous grilling, a vague sense of patriotism and lots of beer. That the day off falls on Friday this year only makes it better: a Thursday night of partying, followed by a day of being a drunk American, followed by a second consecutive (and thus sloppier) night of partying? Let freedom ring.
4. Thanksgiving Day/Date:Thursday, November 26 Chances you have it off: Great, unless you bag groceries for a living, and even then you make triple time, get off at two and go home with a free turducken. Obligated Reflection: Who has time to reflect with all this food to eat? Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Like Christmas, Thanksgiving is often marred by family obligations. But family is infinitely more tolerable with a gut full of stuffing and John Madden mumbling faintly in the next room. Furthermore, unlike Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving Eve is like a great college party, only with lots of girls who went to your high school and always thought you were cute but could never do anything about it because you were dating that one girl (what was her name?), but now you're not dating anyone and, why, yes, I would like a shot, and oh, my God, I can't believe I ran into you, and is that Journey?, I love Journey, let's dance, woo-hoo!, I can't believe I'm making out with you, this is so weird, weird but awesome!, wanna get out of here?, sure, your parents' house or mine?
Gotta love Thanksgiving.
3. Labor Day Day/Date:Monday, September 7 Chances you have it off: Fabulous, unless you're in grade school, in which case you are on this day a prisoner to your depression, for school likely starts on Monday. Sucks for you. Be older next time. Obligated Reflection: Fifty bucks to the first commenter who knows what this day celebrates. (No Wikipedia!) Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: Honestly, not a lot. A Sunday-night party might distinguish itself the night prior, but Labor Day is about the day. There's something peaceful and serene, even wistful, about this holiday. Summer is backing slowly out of your life. You're hanging on to the last days of the season, grilling and sipping slowly on something light, like vodka. The threat of school -- even if you long ago tossed your last mortar board -- lingers. The lack of work today pushes against the promise of it tomorrow. But mostly, it's just a free day. And there's baseball on. And you can't go wrong with that.
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2. Halloween Day/Date:Saturday, October 31 Chances you have it off: This year, excellent, unless you work at the Halloween superstore, in which case, let's be honest, you probably don't have big plans anyway. Obligated Reflection: Fucking zero. What once was a celebration of the harvest season is now a celebration of advanced dentistry and dressing up like a total whore. Please, a moment of thanks for corporate America's bastardization of everything meaningful. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: More than you know what to do with. If not for suspect weather, the pressure of finding a costume and the fact that it usually falls on a weekday, Halloween could be No. 1. It's basically like Thanksgiving Eve, but the pretty people wear less and the ugly people wear masks. And there's always candy at work the next day.
1. Memorial Day Day/Date:Monday, May 25 Chances you have it off: Excellent, assuming you're not a lifeguard or Derek Jeter. Obligated Reflection: Just enough. Opportunities for Mischief, Merriment and Casual Sex: It's like Labor Day, only way better. The ease of it remains -- a totally free day, outside, no major obligations or pressure to pay tribute. Summer is finally within reach, but at the same time, it hasn't even started. The day celebrates promise, really: Labor Day is three-plus months away, and there's nothing in between but patios and tan lines.
Happy Holidays, indeed.