Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What is the Civil Religion "Holiday Season" For?

The season from Halloween through New Years contain the High Holy Days of the the American civil religion.  The great melting pot of pagan, Christian, and Roman holidays has been Americanized.  And the keystone of the arch of holidays is Thanksgiving.

Each holiday serves multiple purposes, high and low.  Halloween brings out artistic creativity, and lets us serve cute little neighbor kids coming to the door.  New Years is a time for new starts, the beginning of the year, and the beginning of the great quarter of getting down to work.  Christmas, of course, is a significant religious holiday for the Christian majority, but is also a great family holiday, the start of a week of togetherness with which to end the year.

Thanksgiving is also a great family holiday.  More than that, though, it is the moment of greatest moral depth - of reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for.  Of all the actions tied to our holidays, this is the one most likely to bring enduring happiness.  The happiest people show the thanksgiving habit year-round.

To be sure, each of these holidays is also an important commercial day.  All of our civil religion holidays have elements to encourage no-holds-barred spending. The last quarter of the year drives the consumer economy.   Each of these economic customs has the potential to make us more materialistic in ways that produce dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

Still, each of our civil holidays, if approached correctly, can promote happiness and a better civic spirit.  And the greatest of these is Thanksgiving.


Mac said...


barry said...

I know it is all tribal. I know it is all make believe. I know it is all economically based and I was a part of it for many years, yet it still makes me feel good

Ceemac said...

When did Centre begin recognizing or celebrating Christmas? Making assumption that the founders did not acknowledge it

Gruntled said...

Centre's calendar has always been built around a Christmas/New Year's Break.

What I find notable is that the only holiday that we stop classes for during the term is Thanksgiving. Every other holiday, civil and religious is, at best, a teachable moment.

Ceemac said...

Interesting. So when did Kentucky Presbyterians start celebrating Christmas?

I recall reading a book 30 years ago written circa 1970 by one of the men that would go on to found the PCA. It marked the beginning of Southern Presbyterian "theological decline" to the inclusion of non Biblical things like Christmas in the denominational calendar. I bet Mac has a copy of that book, title is something like "Dimming of the Gold." by Smith I think.

Oh and happy Thanksgiving. Glad you are posting more regularly.