Notes from the Garden: Feasts

The neighborhood was quiet Sunday morning - no loud lawn mowers/edgers or detritus blowers. I suspect that all was quiet because "Mom" had to be served breakfast in bed, or the family had to take her out to a fancy brunch, or ...

And then everyone complains that it is just an expensive Hallmark Greeting Card sham. They complain, but feel compelled to celebrate Mother's Day anyway with cards, flowers, telephone calls, e-mails, videos, perhaps a special meal.

I grew up not knowing about this particular celebration. When I finally got out into the larger world, I asked my mother why we as a family had never celebrated Mother's Day? Her swift response: "Mothers deserve more than just a one-day celebration." Yes, mama ... but I knew she was right even if it felt peculiar. After all, most of my friends took extreme measures, grumbling all the while, to make sure their mothers would know that they had not forgotten them on the special day.

I eventually found my own way of celebrating my mother, and Hallmark has yet to pick up on this! I always call her on my birthday, and I listen to her stories about that special birth day in her life. I treasure the stories about that day and my father's role in that day. She loves to tell and retell that day's stories.

Americans are in dire need of "special" days. Within each of our own ethnic heritages, there is a plethora of feasts and celebrations, but they have been lost in the process of becoming an American. As a nation of immigrants, we have wiped out most of the Native American traditions and subsumed most of our religious traditions. So why does it come as a surprise, in the land of "the business of America is business," that Hallmark has risen to the occasion?

The curious thing about the Hallmark special days such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Halloween is that there is no special food or feast type. Yes, you could say chocolate and sweets, but those are not unique to these "holidays" - think chocolate Easter bunnies. When the culture was still agrarian based, there were celebrations at harvest time and spring planting time, but those were generally on a small, local, village-type scale.

On a national level, we still do have the turkey at Thanksgiving, the turkey again at Christmas or maybe a goose, and the Easter ham. Many of us have our favorite stuffings or side dishes from our youth. But these feasts are family based, rather than community celebrations.

Perhaps as we move more toward buying locally grown food, we can return to the idea of celebrating the planting and the harvests with grand community feasts and festivals. We are global now, and other cultures always have elaborate festivals, and food traditions play a pivotal role in these celebrations.

Meanwhile, it was good to pause last Sunday, and to have a day that was different from the normal rush of our lives. Thanks, Hallmark!

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