Christmas is just around the corner and families are busy buying presents and decking their halls. Snowmen and Santa Claus blow-ups are a familiar sight on the lawns of many houses, and a neverending surplus of Christmas classics are played on the radios right after Thanksgiving to the joy and annoyance of many. It’s a holiday in which families gather around to unwrap presents, connect, and enjoy themselves. However, why is Christmas a holiday?
Christmas was originally a date chosen to honor the birth of Christ and assimilate the pagan Saturnalia festival traditions by the Pope of the fourth century in England. Aside from this, around the world in other countries, other deities of other religions were celebrated similarly around this time of the year such as the Germanic god Oden and the winter solstice Yule in Scandinavia, so Christmas was popularly embraced by many as a holiday to honor their God(s). On the other hand, because it was a holiday that was associated with a religion many non-Christian or non-religious groups have outlawed the holiday in the past like Boston did in 1659. In fact, because of the American Revolution, Christmas wasn’t made a federal holiday until June 26, 1870, after the increase in unemployment and gang riots. These events caused great turmoil until Washington Irving published The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1918 that centered around two different groups mingling and celebrating Christmas together in contrast to the problems society was faced with at the time. In a way, it can be said that Irving “invented” the peaceful and warm-hearted tradition of families celebrating Christmas (“History of Christmas”).
Aside from the cultural change through the years of our main federal holidays, each holiday has a customary tradition associated with what it is they celebrate. For example, during Christmas, it’s customary to buy presents for your loved ones. Thus, many industries have taken the opportunity to make a profit off of these federal holidays and seasonal holiday products are featured at the forefront of many stores. For example, during the weeks before Christmas, toys and potential mainstream gifts are placed in eye-catching decorated sections usually near the door. Approaching Valentine’s Day, chocolate sweets and Valentine cards will appear in pink and red galore. Likewise, when October is a few days away, cavity-inducing candies will entice consumers along with various costumes and props. Of course, this skeptic view of holidays as dreadful money-spending days is from a more mature “grown-up’s” perspective, but in a child’s point of view, it’s the best time of the year. These holidays have weaved themselves into out educational days as children are allowed to celebrate them with Doctor Seuss green eggs and ham, Valentine card exchanges, Leprechaun mischief in the classroom, Easter egg hunts, and Secret Santas.
Even without such activities, these holidays have become integrated into our culture. Families take advantage of these holidays to meet up, socialize. and catch up. Such days have become an important part of our lives. So much so that, those who have to spend these holidays alone are considered ‘sad’ for a lack of a better word. There are also people who don’t want to celebrate holidays either due to their religion or because they don’t believe in the religion or origins related to the holiday. For such occurrences, many eccentric people who have considered this tragedy have taken upon themselves the arduous task of making a guide on how to spend the holidays alone. Comparatively, the educational system not only allows students to celebrate these holidays but also allow them to have days off to recuperate, a brief period of happiness before the start of another semester or quarter of work. Most commonly, students are allowed to have a Thanksgiving Break, a Christmas Break and sometimes a Spring Break. Personally, as a child, I would often look forward to any holiday as long as I could get a break from the monotonous repetition of learning in the same classroom for hours on end. Now that I look back on it, it seems like the education system has some mercy on our poor souls to actually make education so interesting and fun, but they were probably just introducing us, students, to our cultural identity and all.
Although our holidays have become somewhat commercialized and allow us to keep a sense of normality and belonging, they also remind us of the values and traditions of our country. In the United States, we also celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veteran’s Day, soulful days that recognize achievements and prompt us to remember a part of our country’s history. We celebrate such holidays as a remembrance of those who have fallen and to respect our noble predecessors who built the foundation of the country we live in. Many of these aforementioned holidays that have such serious sentiments are not as commercialized as the seasonal ones like Halloween, but as a consumer, one will see bouquets of meaningful flowers or the mini version of our countries flag. Furthermore, not all of them are as melancholic as Memorial Day. Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and Independence Day celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence shortly after winning the Revolutionary War. In lieu of the fact that holidays have a certain agenda behind the celebration, how do holidays become recognized as federal holidays? For example, how come Pride Day is not a federal holiday list? What other potential holidays exist but are not as celebrated because they’re not as promulgated as the mainstream ones? Does our social values and culture have a say in the admission of a holiday or is it up to the president? Are holidays in the terms of tradition a good thing since new generations typically resist the idea of traditional thought?
In the end, holidays aren’t as transparent as they seem. There are always two sides to everything. The original agenda of most holidays are vastly different from what many people make of them in our modern era as compared to the past. Plus, it seems like the big companies in charge of the holiday-themed products are behind the stereotypical shallow meanings that make up our modern holidays. Hopefully, the history and meaning behind each holiday will continue to persist against the race of time and marginalization so that the next generation can learn to truly appreciate the holidays as they are meant to be appreciated.
“History of Christmas”. History.com. A+E Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas. Accessed December 2017.