Wednesday, January 17, 2018
American Holidays. . .
Of course, we all know the three great holidays: Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas. It is hardly news that these top the American list of most observed days in the year. But it just might surprise you to find out that Thanksgiving is actually second to Halloween. I am not sure anyone is surprised by the fact that Christmas, at least a version of it that may or may not resemble what is observed in Christian churches, tops the list. Sure, some may be calling it the Winter holiday but the happy holiday under it all bears some sort of connection to Jesus, even if distant.
I was struck by the idea that Thanksgiving has given way to Halloween. This was the first that I knew that ghouls and goblins and pumpkins carved out had replaced turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie. But then again I am often slow to jump on trends. It does seem that Halloween is the perfect holiday for Americans. It bears hardly any connection or resemblance to religion of any kind. It is the day when you can dress up to scare and offend. It is the day whose sacrament is candy and whose penance is playing tricks -- what is not to love???
We have family and a few friends (some of them church folk with no place to go) on Thanksgiving and at Christmas it is barely family (what with all the worship services). But on Halloween we welcome 50 to 100 to our door to pick out a small trick and enjoy a chocolatey treat. I can see how Thanksgiving might be the very day to overcome our fears of our neighbors and push us to press the bell and get to know the strangers who live in our neighborhoods. We say we are doing it for the kids but some of those kids were so small they had little appreciation for it all and did not get to enjoy much of the treats that got placed in the bags. Once again, a holiday is often an excuse for us to exploit our kids for our own purposes -- though a costume and some candy hardly constitutes any real threat to them.
It all strikes me as a sign of the times to come. The religious holy days that once marked our calendars have been replaced with holidays whose appeal transcends religion and faith. Why we cannot even celebrate Columbus Day anymore without offending someone! In the end, we strive to offend the least number of people or at least the people whose feelings no longer count for much. So Christian holy days are fair game for exploitation and transformation into days that have little or no connection to their sources. It was the Christ Mass but it is hardly Christ's or a Mass anymore that defines that day. Thanksgiving is all about a bird and sports and prep for shopping in preparation for Christmas. Halloween is the one day that is just about Halloween. Try to connect it to All Saints' Day and people will squint at you in disbelief of its origins and nobody even thinks about Reformation Day on October 31 (not even many Lutherans -- except perhaps during a 500th year when you cannot forget it). So, I guess Halloween is a perfectly American holiday, almost as American as apple pie, baseball, and the Fourth of July.
If somebody could only increase the economic impact of Halloween, who knows, it just might overtake Christmas!