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Carrie Hoffman


The idea for a "Holiday Fiction" issue came from my hunch that holidays are enormously important. It’s probably not fashionable in literary settings to express this opinion. At best, we view holidays as something from our childhoods¾ wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day or cutting out construction paper turkeys in elementary school. At worst, we rail against the Hallmark-ification of our culture, the very invention of holidays in order to sell trinkets and decorations and greeting cards. I understand the point of view that says, "You should tell your loved one that you love them every day, not just Valentine’s Day." Or: "People have lost the ‘true’ spiritual meaning of Christmas in favor of mall Santas and shopping binges at Toys R Us." And yet at the same time, my feeling is that these industries could do worse than make us celebrate with loved ones, and I find myself wondering, what’s wrong with a mall Santa?

For the last couple of years I’ve been in a long distance relationship in which holidays are the only times when we can visit to each other. He comes to Mississippi for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s; I go to Texas for Halloween, Mardi Gras and Easter. When we’re together, we make a big deal about these holiday moments. We eat Easter Peeps and buy turkey-shaped cookies and watch television as the ball drops in Times Square. In between, on holidays like Valentine’s Day, we’re still apart and instead must send elaborate packages of tissue paper and homemade cards and candy and hearts, making sure that these arrive exactly on the fourteenth¾ as if to make up for not being able to have dinner reservations like a normal couple. This experience made me interested in the way that holidays can mark important times, revealing our relationships and cultures and beliefs.

The stories in this issue take up the different meanings of the holidays in our lives. We see the ways that the religious and cultural meanings of a holiday can impact and even illuminate a character’s emotional state and situation. The ways that a holiday can make a person reflect on romantic and family relationships, revealing inner obsessions. Two stories span a lifetime of holidays¾ Rosh Hashanah and Christmas¾ marking changes in the narrators’ lives by showing them every year on the same holiday. We’ve got representations of traditions¾ scrubbing feet, giving candy to children, throwing barbecues, visiting graves, buying flowers and werewolf masks, making gypsy costumes, watching fireworks and A Charlie Brown Christmas. In one story, we even see the savagery of the holidays, the ritual slaughter and feasting that goes along with celebration. And sometimes the holiday takes a secondary role as a character simply goes about his or her life, Fourth of July fireworks exploding quietly in the background.

I thank all of the contributors to this issue for writing these stories. It would be very easy to slip into the cranky or sentimental or overly-symbolic, but these stories speak to the more complicated ways that we experience the holidays. I also thank all of the contributors who sent me stories that centered on just about every holiday, including some I’ve never heard about. Thank you for sharing your work with me.

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