My New Holiday

I’ve decided that a new holiday is in order. Don’t worry, it’s a personal holiday. It shouldn’t affect you.

(“Then why do I care?” you respond. “Well,” I reply, “maybe you’ll want to adopt my holiday after you read about it. Maybe you’ll want to have your own personal holiday. You can, you know.”)

National holidays are often so impersonal for me any longer. Commercialization, false patriotism, and cynicism have ground them down. Yeah, I get some credit for all that.

I was watching QI on BritBox the other night. As part of the program, Sandi Toksvig told about a Bolivian holiday, the Day of the Sea. A landlocked nation, Bolivia remembers the day they lost access to the sea. Here’s a little history about it from

What initially detonated the conflict was Bolivia’s intention to charge a 10-cent tax per 100-pounds of potassium nitrate (saltpeter) harvested by Chilean companies in the Atacama Desert. The Chilean government did not accept this Bolivian decision and ordered its troops to invade the Bolivian regions of Antofagasta and Calama, where Bolivia had no military presence and most of the population was of Chilean descent.

It is because of the Battle of Calama that today we celebrate the Day of the Sea. With just under a hundred soldiers, Commanders Eduardo Abaroa (Bolivian) and Ladislao Cabrera (Peruvian) faced over 500 Chilean soldiers. Abaroa was obstinately defending a small bridge over the Topáter River, when on the 23rd of March 1879 the Chileans ordered him to surrender. His response was “Me, surrender? Tell your grandmother to surrender!” after which he was promptly shot dead.

I was instantly inspired. No, I wasn’t planning to shot anyone nor get shot or go to war. Let’s put all that to rest.

I love beaches, seas, and oceans. When I lived in California, my wife and I made a habit of visiting a little town, Half Moon Bay, almost every weekend. Situated on the Pacific coast south of San Francisco, it had wonderful beach access. Walking along the beach was permitted, and the town had restaurants, coffee shops, and book stores that we enjoyed. When it came to buy a house, we decided we’d buy one there. Hearing and smelling the ocean every day was wonderful. I’d get home from work and walk down there to check it out. Sometimes my wife would accompany me.

Moving to Ashland in southern Oregon meant giving up easy beach and ocean access. So, last night I decided to celebrate my beach and ocean addiction on a personal holiday once a year. Since I moved to Ashland in July, I decided my holiday will be on July first.

And like the people of Bolivia, I’ll stop doing everything and listen to the sounds of the oceans for ten minutes, and remember.


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