As a socialist, it is hard to get into the holiday season. The holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving, which seems like it could be alright. I mean, being thankful sounds like a good thing. Only, it is quite hard to be a Thanksgiving enthusiast when you care about indigenous people and don’t think that a holiday marking their genocide should be celebrated. It is hard to give up Thanksgiving-cold turkey- when there are some minor familial expectations that you will participate. Also, for most Americans (i.e. white Americans) Thanksgiving doesn’t really have much historical meaning. It is a routine. It is a time to get together, eat turkey, watch a parade of floating cartoon characters on television or a dog show, and (I think) football. While lip service may be given to thankfulness- this too is a routine- as much as stuffing and turkey. I don’t think that much thought is actually given to Pilgrims or Native Americans. Now, Thanksgiving is all the weirder because…as an accident of patriarchy, as I like to say….my last name is Bradford. I’m really not at all English. Maybe some droplet of blood….but really, I am mostly Finnish with some Czech and Slovene. I like to point this out because William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth colony for 30 years and generally viewed Native Americans as primitive and that white people had Divine favor. Besides forcing a peace treaty on already disease decimated and beleaguered Native Americans, apparently he raided a more communal settlement that was distributing guns to Native Americans (Merrymount). Well, in any event, Thanksgiving can really only be enjoyed if you don’t think too much about it.
Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday. I don’t even want to go there. I can see how this semi-holiday may be a bonding experience between friends or family members, who go through the ritual of an early morning, large lines, and crowds. People look down at long lines and crowds- in the context of queuing for things in the Soviet Union- but in capitalism, this is somehow a blissful experience. Beyond the consumerism feeding frenzy is racism as well! Black Friday was coined by the Philadelphia police to negatively describe the demographics of mass of shoppers/pedestrians. Retailers have appropriated the meaning to be “in the black” financially, but it certainly isn’t a just event- as underpaid workers hustle in the pre-dawn hours or night before to provide services to the mob of shoppers.
Really, I worked on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. I slept on New Year’s eve. The harsh schedule of school and internship, as well as anxiety over the rampaging diseases at my workplace, left me tired and stressed for the month of December. So, once finals were done, I mostly slept and worked. I did do some leisure reading, but I mostly hibernated and hid.
However, with the holidays behind me, I feel more energized. Once I made it through New Year’s, I was ready to celebrate. As others put their trees and lights away, it was time to decorate and put lights up!
This brings me to Marxmas. I’ve celebrated Marxmas for over a decade now. Really, it rips off a lot of Christmas traditions. Instead of a Christmas tree, we have a red plastic Marxmas tree. It is hard to invent an entirely new holiday. I don’t blame Christians for ripping off paganism in this respect. You work with what you know! Yes, Marxmas involves some level of consumerism. However, as it is often AFTER the other holidays, it takes advantage of post-holiday clearance sales. In the ten years of celebrating, a few traditions have remained staples. Usually, there is a skit or a song. Often, there is trivia and “Proletarian Pictionary.” Food and guests are obvious parts of any party. Most years there has been a red elephant gift exchange. In recent years, this exchange occurs during a rendition of the history of Trotskyism. Often The International is sung. Pinatas are often a part of this celebration, which are accompanied by a special piñata song. Finally, in recent years, there has been a theme. These themes include Cuba, Space Race, 1980 Moscow Olympics, and …this year…Northlandia.
Northlandia was a departure from the degenerated worker state themes of year’s past. It was based on the TV show Portlandia. As such, we had pickle jar decorations, a huge tray of interesting pickles, bird decorations, and a “put a bird on it” game. Beyond this theme, there was a general hipster theme. This meant that I tried to made hipster-ish foods, appealing to vegan, gluten free, and local food trends. There were mustache decorations, cupcakes, and gingerbread cookies. The trivia was generally geared towards hipster trends. This was not meant to poke fun at the idea of hipsters or even to acknowledge their existence (anything vaguely progressive and alternative seems to get labelled hipster). Finally, there were prizes for everyone! Really, that is pretty socialist- as winners and losers in the competitions all came home with a prize and a gift bag. Not that we don’t believe in competition- but at least I like the idea that we all win together through learning, experiencing, and participation.
Of course, like any celebration, Marxmas could be critiqued. It is silly, for one thing. How can we be silly or have fun when there is so much suffering in the world? Well, I think politics are a part of the celebration. It is a break from more serious matters, but the serious matters play a role in the celebration. Pictionary included words like “cultural appropriation” “genetically modified organism” and “rape culture.” Like Christmas, there is some waste and consumerism. I buy things for the party. But, we also make a lot of food and decorations. It is a matter of time versus money. Making the prizes or every element of the party from scratch would be quite time consuming. It could be critiqued as borrowing too heavily from Christmas, but singing, trees, and gifts are not exclusively Christmas elements. Like anything fun, it is easier to enjoy it if you don’t think too much.
As a whole, it was fun. I love hosting parties. I love seeing people having a good time because of something I planned. I am terribly socially awkward. I have a hard time with small talk or even big talk. But, when I host a party- I feel in control. I have a role to play. I know what to say and do. It feels great when there are more people than chairs! (We had 21 people show up to the party).