So tonight is Yuri’s Night, the anniversary of the night Yuri Gagarin took that historic first step into space. It’s also the anniversary of the launch of the first space shuttle mission, STS-1. What I’m wondering is, why is this not a major holiday, like Christmas or Easter? Why do we celebrate Easter – a holiday whose symbols are rabbits and eggs, both symbols of rebirth and springtime – but not this newer holiday which is about an amazing scientific and cultural achievement? Is it just because Yuri’s Night is a relatively recent event and hasn’t had time to be integrated into our culture? I’d say there’s been plenty of time for that. Yuri launched over half a century ago now. Maybe it’s because Yuri’s Night hasn’t been co-opted by any major religions, like Easter (nee Eostre) and Christmas (nee Saturnalia) both were adopted by Christianity? Maybe some Christian sect should call this night the night that Christ finally launched himself into Heaven or something.
I’m not actually planning on doing anything special tonight. Just saying that as an atheist and a humanist, I think our holidays should be based on human achievements. Catapulting ourselves above the sky takes real human effort, not bad for a species that only a few million years ago was still swinging through the trees.