Do you ever tire of holidays? No, not the time off of work and spending time with family and good friends part. I’m talking about the commercialization of holidays (as Charlie Brown would have put it.) Do you ever really stop and consider what a holiday really is?
I know for me, life is so busy and I always feel so rushed. I’m often convicted of that, because by nature I’m a do-er (as my friend Stacy puts it in her post on resting). She has some good insight on why we should slow down and rest and gives some great ideas of how to rest. And I think holidays hold such an opportunity to rest.
But first we must understand what a holiday is.
The word holiday itself is from the combination of the two words “holy” “day”, and yes, as you would expect it was originally days that were set aside as being “holy” or reserved for religious festivals and activities. (Source)
Let’s take that even further. Something that is holy is to be consecrated and set apart from the mundane, everyday or secular things. We can see that these original “holy days” were very special and sacred days. They were days that often times were prepared for and looked forward to with great expectation and excitement. They also usually involved feasting and togetherness. Hmmm, that sounds an awful lot like our modern day holidays, right?
But there is a difference in our holidays and the old “holy days”.
These “holy days” were days with deep spiritual purpose and meaning. Days when the people were to focus and remember specific events-events that are crucial to the tenets of their beliefs and culture. It was also a time that would bring unity. People from across the land would pause and focus their hearts and minds on the events of these days, as one people with one mind. A time to put away the individual difference and remember who they were collectively.
Now I’m not trying to make it sound idealistic. Yes, there were and always will be those who just wanted to enjoy the food, drink and entertainment. People are people-past present and future. We all are bent toward evil and selfish desires.
But for now, I just want to focus on the intent of the “holy days”. And yes, even the intent of these days has changed over time-at least somewhat. By the mid-1400’s the spelling of the word was now accepted as “holiday” instead of the just the two word “holy day”. And there came to be a new meaning also. Now “holy days” were days set apart for religious events and “holidays” were days set apart as a day of resting from work.
I’m not entirely sure how often or long the distinction between the two words lasted, but eventually the two meanings became blurred into one as well as the use of only one term “holiday”. But who cares about the historical English lesson I just gave you? And why is it of any value to us today? (And by the way, I’m not an English major-I majored in math-so these kinds of posts aren’t regular events here. But I do love history and think it’s wise to study so as to live better for today.)
By knowing and remembering why we have holidays, it helps us to better enjoy them and can make us better as people, patriots, neighbors and friends.
In the United States of America we have the privilege of observing many holidays throughout the year. Some are to honor events in our nation, some are secular days to have time off work with family, and some are days for religious events. But each one has a specific purpose of why that day is different from all others.
Since I’m writing this on a national patriotic holiday, let’s just focus on those days right now. These holidays are meant to be used to remember those who’ve fought or are currently deployed for our freedom. And I’ll have to admit, this is one time where entertainment and media do a decent job of reminding us of the purpose of these days.
We’ve seen and heard many commercials this weekend honoring those we’ve served in our military. Albeit, some of them were using that as a means to advertise for a specific company or product, but there were some that just wanted to honor and show gratitude to those men and women who have given all for us.
Many television and radio stations even air special broadcast of movies, shows, or documentaries all displaying the valor, courage, and heroism of those who have defended the defenseless, stood for freedom, and protected our homeland.
These holidays that we observe should be spent honoring and remembering those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. But all too often, we see it as a day to get some extra work done around the house, take in the latest movie, or hit those big sales at the mall.
While none of those things are bad in and of themselves, and I’m even guilty of them as well; that is not the true intent of the holiday. Please don’t get me wrong! I am not implying that we should somberly sit around all day, spend the day forcing ourselves to gravely take in all the costs of freedom, or stay in prayer all day (although a whole day in prayer wouldn’t be a bad thing once in awhile).
On the other hand, I think we should still spend the day with family and friends. But instead of just celebrating and feasting because most of us are blessed enough to have a day off from work and food enough to spare for the day, we should make a conscious effort to incorporate one activity that causes us to pause, remember, reflect and be thankful for all the many blessings we have because of the sacrifice of others.
As a Christian, holidays are of even greater significance.
Anyone who knows Scripture should recall that numerous times God tells the Israelites to institute a ritual or tradition and this was to be a memorial for what the Lord had done for them. One of the clearest pictures of this is when God instituted the Passover.
We read in Exodus 12 the first Passover. And we see several times the Lord telling the children of Israel to “keep this service”. He even expects them to teach their children to observe it and explain what it represents. Passover wasn’t just some random act they did. It served a purpose; it caused them to pause and reflect and be thankful!
But this wasn’t just an Old Testament thing. We see in the New Testament where Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. He tells His disciples to do this “in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19) This new memorial was established during the Passover meal (a memorial of their freedom from the bondage of physical slavery in Egypt). And it would serve as a reminder of the freedom from spiritual bondage and restoration to God that Christ would soon secure for us on the cross. It also serves as a hope for our future. One day that freedom will be complete when we enter Glory.
Through these instances we see that God is truly a God of the past, present, and future. He tells us to remember our past-what He’s done and the cost of our current freedom, to pause in our present-to set apart a day to be thankful for our blessings and think of all the mercy and grace we are still given, and to be thankful for our future-because the same God who moved in our past has already secured our future.
And for those who aren’t Christians, we can still come together and agree that we are blessed with many freedoms not found in other parts of the world. We won’t agree on every policy or principle that produced these freedoms. But we should all recognize these freedoms came through blood, sweat, tears and lives lost.
Freedom is not free. And that should cause us to pause and reflect on all that has been willingly laid down and given up so that we, each and every one of us Americans, can be free. It should also push us to be thankful. To tell those who’ve served that we do indeed realize their sacrifice and are thankful for it. Let’s start treating holidays as they were intended. Holidays are markers to remember the cost of our liberty lest we forget and lose it all.
For more on remembering those who’ve sacrificed for our freedom, read this post.
For more on our freedom in Christ Jesus, read this post.