If you look at the calendar of any country, you will find a number of secular (i.e, non-religious) observances. Sometimes these to get mixed into religion, and some are just odd. Today, for example, has the following “observations”: Day of Unplugging; Pig Day; Employee Appreciation Day; Salesperson Day; Horse Protection Day; Fruit Compote Day; Plan A Solo Vacation Day; World Compliment Day; Refired, Not Retired Day; Dress in Blue Day; Wedding Planning Day. Whew! Did you know so many things/people were “observed” today? That doesn’t even include the week or month observances that March 1st occurs in. Yikes!
Our word holiday—as you might have guessed—is a conjoining of holy and day. Just the conjoining of the two words creates a problem. In the British Commonwealth (the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, etc.), holiday has come to mean vacation. That came into being as holy days were the days people didn’t work. It became associated with leisure rather than God. Even in the US, we use the word holiday to note a day off (except for Holidays, when we mean all the observances starting with Thanksgiving through New Year).
As the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land, certain days are being set aside as Holy Days. Some of these Holy Days are non-working (Sabbath) days, but they are not all required to be. What is common across all of them is that God is part of the day. In fact, God is the focus of each of these days. What elevates them over the “normal” Sabbath day is the purpose of their observances, whether it be Passover (salvation/escape from Egypt), bounty of the harvest (that God blessed them), or remembering the wilderness wandering (God lead and took care of them in the wilderness for 40 years).
Why we remember is as important as what we remember. As we quickly approach the season of Lent (Ash Wednesday is March 6th), it is easy to dismiss holy days as either a mindless or fruitless activity. This is especially true with Lent, as many people use Lent to stop/pause an activity (Facebook, certain foods, etc.) that they need a healthier relationship with anyway. This is not to dismiss these actions (for they can be very good), but to understand the why. Lent is a time of reflection intended to identify with Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, to set our minds to look to the cross, and Good Friday. In other words, it’s about Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus (respectively).
Why do we remember Holy Days? For the same reason the Israelites were to…God. What do we remember? What God has done, and how God has done it. As a Jew, Paul was very much aware of the power of Holy Days and traditions (Lent is both a group of Holy Days and a tradition, for example). Paul valued them as part of his identity, and also part of his formation. While Gentile Holy Days were minimal (versus Jewish ones), there were still plenty of secular days of observation, and they all mattered.
1) Have you ever been bored by a holiday? If not, how do you stay excited and engage with a holiday? If you have, how will you become engaged again?
2) Does recalling or focusing on the fact that a Holy Day (holiday) is about God change how you view them?
3) Holy Days and their rituals can be empty of any value or meaning if you let them. What will you do to maintain or put value and meaning back into them?
FD) What is you favorite Holy Day? Why?