Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Holidays and Holy Days

Having just finished the madness that is Halloween (with almost no regard for All Saints' Day) and with Christmas shopping already weaving it's magic over the retail world, it seems appropriate to think about what makes a holiday. There are several categories of holidays in the USA.
  1. There are civic holidays. These are occasions like Independence Day, Flag Day and Memorial Day in which our government and institutions recognize the importance of a specific detail of Americana.
  2. There are greeting card holidays. These holidays are made-up. That is, someone who wanted to sell a product, a card, flowers or candy, invented these occasions. Some examples include Secretary's Day, Grandparent's Day and even Mother's Day.
  3. There are quasi-religious holidays. These are generally secular events that through the years have taken on religious, or spiritual, tones. Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving are among these events.
  4. There are social holidays. Social holidays are those dates that we save only for the purpose of celebrating. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fall into this category.
  5. There are also religious, or Christian, holidays (holy days). Easter, Christmas and others constitute some of the religious holidays that we celebrate.

One of the problems with our holidays is the secularization of holy days. Here are a few examples.

  1. St Patrick's Day was originally a celebration of the great saint who brought Christianity to Ireland. It had nothing to do with leprechauns or green beer.
  2. Easter is a recognition of the resurrection of Jesus, the foundational event in Christianity. However, we have allowed it to become a time for hiding colored eggs, eating chocolate and visits from magical rabbits. (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all of Lent have largely been lost in the secularizing shuffle.)
  3. All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1, is a remembrance of all the Christians who have gone before and are no longer with us. This long-forgotten holiday has served for many to be an after-thought from All Hallow's Eve (now commonly know as Halloween).
  4. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is celebrated by virtually everyone in America. It matters not the religion, people shop and give and spend and regret throughout the month of December. A controversy a few years ago reminded us that we celebrate "Christmas" not "Happy Holidays," but it was, and remains, a largely semantic distinction.

There are reasons for Christians to celebrate. We ought to be celebrating our Holy Days more gloriously and graciously than anyone else. We should be using our holy days to bring the love and grace of God to bear on our world.

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