I vividly remember many things in my childhood not so long ago, but I do not remember many celebrations, though life then was not less happy, or less exciting. On the other hand, many of my generation will insist that it was a lot happier than the present modes of existence of our children.
We antiquated beings in that almost forgotten past, despite our enjoyment of everyday life, had very few reasons to engage in the exploitative relations that we call commerce. The events that made us happy did not require us to purchase items or whatnots. Rather, if things had to be purchased for an event, then the happiness that arises from that event is somehow diluted, and somehow appears to be a fraudulent happiness.
Birthdays and other anniversaries may have been remembered, for my generation was certainly lettered enough to understand the Western calendar and concept of time, but we were definitely under no obligation to throw lavish parties or purchase gifts. In sum, most of what made us happy in that ancient age were not commercially acquired.
We went about our normal chores and work during these days, and it is not uncommon that we “celebrated” our birthdays out cutting firewood, and thoroughly enjoying it, not because of the date, but because it was truly liberating and exhilarating to be climbing trees and walking forest paths. Chancing upon some rarely-espied bird or mushroom species has no equal in the hierarchy of happiness.
But that time is long gone, for even our generation was drawn into the rank commercialism of happiness. We learned to associate birthdays and anniversaries with purchased items of joy, also referred to as gifts. We also learned to associate these days with lavish preparations of artery-clogging cuisine and judgment-impairing drinks, commonly referred to as parties.
Our calendars slowly became full of dates that had to be celebrated with purchased tidbits of happiness. Aside from birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s Day, we learned to celebrate such other dates as Valentine’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Halloween. Eventually, we also had to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Katharine Whitehorn once said, “From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.”
Since the wheels of commerce needed other days than Christmas, these days were invented, though the reasons for their celebration existed before they became commercial. What was invented, or promoted, was the spending that came with each special day. And it was insidiously done.
We were drawn into the commercial trap slowly and surely, eventually assuming that our participation in these days, should we scrimp on expenses, were somehow diluted or fraudulent. To fully participate, or to completely celebrate the spirit of these special days, we had to spend with wanton abandon, often spending beyond our means.
Yet if we see the message of each special day, such as the celebration of love, the birth and resurrection of Christ, our own births, and respect for fathers, mothers, and our dead ancestors, all these should be year-round and lifelong commitments.
The special days are just celebrated to ensure periodic reasons for commercial activity. They are celebrated just so we would not forget to spend whatever money we have earned, or yet to earn.
Father’s Day is celebrated in the Philippines on the third Sunday of June, falling on June 20 in 2010.
Before that day, the wife and kids were asking me how we should celebrate it. In years prior to this one, we celebrated this day with spending, as expected, even obliging our fantasies of better celebrations, entertaining the many advertisements that precede Father’s Day. These advertisements routinely suggest the “best” Father’s Day celebration or gift, and our naivete drew us further into the trap. In the end, whatever celebration we did was somehow lacking, and the financial drain was not merely ridiculous, but also thoroughly unnecessary.
This year, I told the family that my celebration of Father’s Day shall be a day of reading, and they could celebrate it any other way they want. They opted to bear with me that day, keeping unnaturally quiet lest they disturb my engrossed perusal of Tom Robbins’ “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.”
Later in the afternoon, it rained, and the kids took the chance to play in the heavy downpour. When the rain stopped, a glorious sunset was laid out in the heavens for our enjoyment.
It was the best Father’s Day I ever had since that day became part of my calendar.