Ranking the holidays as if they were college basketball programs.

The following exercise in sports geekery all started with a gaudily designed Christmas window. So, don’t blame me if you ended up wasting ten minutes on this. Blame the holidays.[1]

You see one fall evening my brother and I were walking downtown to watch the Raptors win a rare game when the topic turned to the lights lining the streets of one of the many downtown Toronto shopping areas. [2]

We both quickly agreed that it was far too early for Christmas displays and lights.  Halloween was barely over and Brian told me he’d seen some X-mas displays up even before the leftover Tootsie Rolls hit the discount bin.

Now, I know people are going to say: “suck it up, this is hardly new”, but still, enough is enough.

Therefore I propose a one-month advertising limit for TIER1 holidays. I.e. elves could have started suiting up on November 25th   but not a moment before. That way there is sufficient shopping time but I don’t have to bounce my head off of Rudolph’s ass in early November.[3]

What’s a “Tier 1” holiday you ask? Well I’m, glad you asked. A Tier 1 holiday has to fill a few important criteria to qualify: it has to have a psychological influence on more than one country - so sorry Japan, “Setsubun” doesn’t make the cut.[4]

It has to have a consumption angle to it. I mean how could we not take into account North America’s favourite pastime -- spending money?

And finally, there has to be some sort of consistency to it. While the event for individuals can sometimes be hit or miss, as a whole a Tier 1 holiday rarely, IF EVER, falls into the abyss.

Take Valentine’s Day for example. People shop a ton at Valentine’s Day, but does it hold much mustard down in Argentina? And, more damningly to its Tier 1 status, Valentine’s Day can blow up big. Invariably when there’s pressure involved V-Day folds. I mean, has anyone EVER had a good Valentine’s Day when there were major expectations attached?

I propose we think of holidays as college basketball program.[5] In that sense Valentine’s is definitely good, it is capable of some memorable moments and on the surface it’s legit but as soon as the heat gets turned up V-Day just can’t come through.

Gonzaga, like Valentine’s Day, has an inverse relationship thing going on. The program gets its T.V. time, it can look sexy in the right light – but you would never ever, EVER bet on Valentine’s Day to make the final four of your holiday season. As soon as the stakes start to rise you can count on both Gonzaga and Valentine's Day to crap out.




Fourth of July (Tier 1) – It’s big, it’s loud, it’s filled with pomp and circumstance. Everybody loves Independence Day… but really isn’t it just a bit too loud? Isn’t it a little too helter-skelter? Doesn’t the Fourth of July drive you just a little nuts if you’re not an American (or say a Texan?) So it’s a media phenomena, legitimately good, but at the same time, sort of annoying, and really you just kind of wish it was over?

It sounds to me like the Fourth of July is Duke.

Earth Day (Tier 3) – Remember Earth Day? Remember how crazy we all got? We wuz gonna save the PLANET and shit. I bet you had an Earth Day t-shirt. In fact for like two years I bet you were ALL ABOUT Earth day. And then a couple of years later you were using that t-shirt to clean stains off your rug (using a non-biodegradable cleansing agent – ‘natch).

So we have a holiday that sort of made you feel guilty deep down, with massive media buzz, that is remembered with an “oh yeah, WHAT HAPPENED to that?

Earth Day meet the UNLV Running Rebels.


Christmas (Tier 1) – The grand-daddy of them all. Christmas is an unstoppable force. Year after year it’s at the top of your holiday list.

And, while the odd Christmas can go horribly, horribly wrong (“Dad, I’m pregnant”), it still manages to pull through at the end. It may not win every year – but it’s always, always, in the hunt.

Oh and it has an instantly recognizable colour scheme.

So that makes Christmas the UNC Tar Heels.[7]


Father’s Day (Tier 2) – Ahhh Father’s Day… a perfectly respectable holiday. A good time to honour that (hopefully) steady presence in our life. When its good, Father’s Day is the most dependable of all holidays – you buy a tie – the old man opens it and then gives you one of his rare (but very affectionate) hugs and you all go have brunch.

Father’s Day never really comes up big, but you can always depend on it.

Doesn’t that sound like the back door cuts, and zone defense of Stanford? Couldn’t you see the Cardinal coming running out wearing that ugly tie the five-year-old you bought him – and legitimately liking them? They’re a tourney fixture – but they have the good graces to leave relatively early – Dad anyone?

Stanford =’s Father’s Day.


Easter (Tier 2)  -- Arguably the most important holiday on the Christian calendar -- it’s a HUGE deal for millions on the continent. And, it has an army of marketers on the go.

But still, Easter? How sexy is Easter?  I mean its goooood, but, not great. Every year, if you celebrate it, you probably feel pretty happy with yourself. It has family, chocolate, and underlying it all a pretty peaceful message (we all get a second chance). But still its Easter – nobody gets excited about Easter no matter how “good” it is.

We need a program that’s won, whose pretty good every year out, but at the same time isn’t what it once was (welcome to the new secular world people – don’t hate – just accept).[8]

I think John Wooden makes a great Eastertide figure. Let’s go you UCLA Bruins.


Chaunnakah  (Tier 2) – Now let me get this straight; this is only about numbers – there simply aren’t enough people of the Jewish persuasion to move this baby up a notch. But, I got nothing but love here. Chaunnakah is tradition, everybody knows about it. And for us non-Hebrew types it seems like an endless array of pageantry and good times. I mean it lasts TEN DAYS. How cool is that? And, it’s a celebration of victory through some (literally) dark times – would anyone ever cheer against Chuannakah?

I mean you can spell it two different ways and BOTH are acceptable. So think of a school that graduates high numbers to the NBA, has won a couple of times, almost always plays a fun wide-open style, and had to get through some lean years.

In a nutshell it’s better than you think every year.

Let’s light some candles for Michigan St.

Thanksgiving (Tier 1) – Well of course it is. Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday in the U.S, and it carries some weight North of the border as well.[9] You see though, the thing about Thanksgiving is you never quite know how it’s going to go down. It’s all rather delicate. Does Uncle Bob have one too many glasses of wine before dinner, and than start talking about what’s really going on with him and Aunt Margaret? Or does the Turkey get cooked those extra 15 minutes leaving it dry – still edible, but not really, you know, succulent?

Here we need a team with a history, a definite blue-chip program that always seems to be an eye-lash away from disaster. It doesn’t ALWAYS blow-up though and it’s that kind of delicious tension that makes them so fun to watch.

I gotta go with Kentucky because the Wildcats are as good a bet to go to the Elite 8 as they are to flame out in a round 1 game that sees two of their seniors ejected -- one of whom has the first name “Bubba” or “D’Brickshaw”.


Halloween (Tier 1)  -- This is the surprise holiday of the group. Halloween is actually the third “biggest” in North America. You never really think about it but between the candy, and the costumes and the parties Halloween ALWAYS delivers. The Big H is sort of like Pizza: even when it’s bad -– it’s still Pizza.

And, Halloween always brings something to the table: naughty nurse costumes, mini Snickers bars, and for family, especially with young kids, it’s a pretty magical night as you trot around with a flock of awe-struck youngsters.

Which program then is Halloween? Who do we never give enough credit to? Who is a great program that always takes us just THAT much longer to name than it should? And who consistently gives up entertaining, and eye-dropping talent?

 Behind the mask – I think we’re looking at the University of Connecticut.


There you have it, a slightly less than comprehensive list of holidays with an arbitrary weighting of importance. But if it means that one of us, just one, has to avoid bouncing their head off of a reindeer’s keister in mid-November?

Well then I think we can agree a great thing was done here.



[1] Or if you want to get technical, blame a church that has us celebrating somebody’s birthday months before he was actually born.

[2] Am I excited that the NBA season is back on? Given that I was making 5% on my season ticket deposit and the Raptors signed three guys in Anthony Carter, Rasual Butler and Jamal Magloire who COMBINED to average 9.9 points a game the answer is: No, no I am not.

[3] And seriously? Rudolph? Have you actually watched it recently? It’s amazingly sexist and MAN is Santa a dick.

[4] That’s “bean throwing festival” to us Gaijen where the Japanese hurl the little legumes as a way to banish demons. The one here was apparently from the Go-Go era.

[5] There will be no Syracuse jokes in this column. The whole thing is just too depressing. If it`s true it’s obvious we`ve failed again as a society. But if it’s false..? That`s just as troubling – that several people would fabricate that sort of lie. The worst part is if it IS false then the next time some kid who was abused does the incredibly brave thing of stepping up and confronting the system that abused him the naysayers will have their ready-made excuse.

[6] ‘Cause, you know, what ELSE would they be?

[7] This may have been the single most painful thing I have ever had to write. I hate UNC as I’d hate the fiery, fiery pits of hell. I mean Vince Carter was spawned there. But what can you do? The ‘Heels are pretty much always legitimately GOOD.

[8] By this point you’re probably wondering “wait, is he religious or not?” Welcome to life with an atheist for a Mum, and a Roman Catholic for a Dad. You shoulda been there for our dinner conversations…

[9] Quick Canadian education session here… we DO have Thanksgiving, we just have ours way earlier - the second Monday of each October – because Canada is a cold, cold wasteland and if you waited until late November to eat our harvest all you’d get are root vegetables and frozen turkeys (which is kinda what we get in mid-October, but I digress).

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