Wednesday, January 17, 2018

American Holidays. . .

In the wake of Christmas over and the dull of winter now fully upon us, I have been reflecting a bit.  Some more meandering thoughts, you know. So, for what it is worth, here are my observations. . .

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!


Janis Williams said...

I might beg to differ on the religious significance of Halloween. Certainly there are multiple thousands who see the day only as a fun time for eating too much sugar, and dressing in costumes from funny to scary. There are, however, many of the new pagans for whom this day becomes one in a series of non-Church (or anti-Church) days of observance/celebration.

Also, economically, if Amazon and other retailers could work to make Halloween the day we exchange gifts by running huge sales, it might overthrow Christmas (at least the ‘secular’ version of it).

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Pastor, Halloween is a "holiday" we should skip as Christians, just as we should avoid becoming too much like the world in our pursuits and interests. Being in the world but not of the world is Christ's warning to us, lest our hearts stray from the narrow path. I have found many Christians today do not take seriously what being a believer entails. It means not isolation from the world, but separation from those things, those ungodly practices and values which the world embraces, We should not be disengaged from the world, but as we are full time ambassadors for Christ, we need to cultivate wisdom in our approach to it.

Anonymous said...

A Festivus for the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

Hey,I know! Let’s have a holiday where we celebrate ghoulishness, death, and decay, and every phobia that can be imagined. What a concept! I like it! This makes perfect sense maybe to Stephen King.

Carl Vehse said...

"Why we cannot even celebrate Columbus Day anymore without offending someone!"

Like..... well..... the Missouri Synod... back in 1914.

Excerpted from The Lutheran Witness, Vol. 33, 1914, pp. 93-4:

Official Text of Resolutions
Adopted by the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, May 16, 1914, at Chicago, Ill.

WHEREAS the Roman Catholic hierarchy strives to influence and control the government of our country in its own interests, in violation of the fundamental principle of the Constitution regarding the separation of Church and State, thus endangering religious and political liberty;

WHEREAS this religio-political power has succeeded in inducing our presidents to recognize and honor in an official capacity the Roman mass (for instance, on Thanksgiving Day);

WHEREAS recently, through Roman intrigues, the Congress of the United States has been petitioned to make Columbus (Discovery) Day, October 12, a national legal holiday; and since this request is the more impudent as until now not one historically important day, not even Independence Day, July 4, has been made a national legal holiday; and

WHEREAS every patriotic citizen feels deeply hurt by such occurrences;

Be it therefore resolved,-

1) That Synod present a protest to the President of the United States against his official participation in the Roman mass;

2. That Synod send a protest to the Congress of the United States against making the so-called Columbus Day a national legal holiday;

3) That the President of our Synod be authorized and instructed to enter a protest in our name with the President of the United States whenever similar endeavors to mix Church and State come to light.
R[ichard Daniel] Biedermann [Secretary, LCMS, 1905-1920].

Actually, in June 28, 1870, Congress created four federal holidays: New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Other federal holidays have been added over the years since then, including Columbus Day in 1937.