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Other People’s Holidays

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Mar 12, 2018

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. (And please subscribe!)

Do you drink a Guinness on St. Patrick's Day, even though you're not Irish? Do you eat chips and salsa on Cinco de Mayo, even though you're not Mexican?

Here at Sporkful HQ, we do.

When one culture's holiday becomes everyone's excuse to party, what's gained and what's lost? And how does it feel when it's your holiday?

Take St. Patrick's Day -- The holiday as we know it was created in America as a way to fight prejudice against Irish Catholics by celebrating Irish culture. It's become an occasion when people go drinking and act out the very stereotypes the holiday was intended to combat.

Then again, 150 years ago, Irish churches in America were being burnt to the ground. Today on St. Patrick's Day, Americans of every background eat corned beef and wear green. There's something beautiful about that.

So some good can come from celebrating other people's holidays. And assimilation will always involve a compromise.

But as more Americans observe holidays like Lunar New Year and Dia de los Muertos -- how can we do better than St. Patrick's Day?

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This week on The Sporkful, we go to two very different holiday parties in search of answers.

First up, a Chinese New Year party with no Chinese people. Then, Dan attends a Passover seder where he's the only Jewish person.

"A more pure and authentic seder meal would be less accessible to me, who's not Jewish," another guest at that seder notes. "But it also does change it, so...if you do that to the final degree, it ceases to exist as its own tradition."

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And later in the show, comedian Jenny Yang (Disoriented Comedy + Bad Appetite) offers her advice for marketing new holidays:

"You know it's hard to market suffering," she says. "To sell struggle forces people to feel guilty, and Americans -- we don't want that."

Plus, Jenny and Dan attempt to give Passover a makeover -- as The Jewish St. Patrick's Day.

Listen in to the full episode for the full conversation.

Dan's hosts for the Gentile Passover, Tiffany and Charlene Wang, have made an awesome Manhattan Chinatown Eating Map. Buy it through All-You-Can-Eat Press or enter to win when you sign up for The Sporkful's email newsletter!

Today's sponsors:

Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:

- "Hang Tight" by Hayley Briasco

- "Mouse Song" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Dreamin'" by Erick Anderson

- "When You're Away" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Kenny" by Hayley Briasco

Photos: Dan Pashman, courtesy of Jenny Yang, FlickrCC/Ben Grantham, and FlickrCC/Jesse Acosta

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