One of the highlights on my Yahoo Home page this week talked about a revelation that perhaps the portrait of the Last Supper held a clue that it was held on Wednesday instead of Thursday. There are those who would say this is of some importance because, as a practicing Catholic, I often am invited to a commemoration of this event and wouldn’t want to show up on the wrong date, but it got me thinking in a different direction: having a fixed date for holidays, generally a Monday.
It hasn’t been all that long since all our holidays were centered on religion. For Christians there was Easter and Christmas. The Jews had Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukah. Muslims still celebrate Ramadan. The corollary to holidays centered on religion is holidays centered on seasonality: phases of the moon, harvests, or the end of brutal climate conditions (read winter). Although the religious sometimes ignore that most of these religious holidays were adaptations of pagan celebrations, they hold to the truth that they are seasonal.
Perhaps inspired by the recent French ban on the burka, the Kitchen Sisters featured women who have forsaken the hijab ( www.kitchensisters.org ) on their Hidden World of Girls NPR feature. Their point seemed to be that the religious reasons for wearing the hijab were being reassessed as girls became women and sought a communal identity different from their Muslim faith. In not a tremendous leap, we might conclude that reasons to celebrate religious holidays should be reassessed as our civilization grows. But I don’t think so.
Many of the holidays we celebrate in the United States started from a religious or quasi-religious intent, often being celebrated by church attendance. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day come to mind. Others like New Years, July 4th, Labor Day, Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Day are more days of reflection or celebration and fit nicely into a planned business schedule that is the same day or date every year.
When Yahoo suggests that we make Easter the same day every year, I think it somehow diminishes the intent of the celebration. For Christians the whole liturgical year is built around Easter and the celebration of a Resurrection. For many it may have deteriorated into egg hunts, brunch, and baskets filled with candy, but for most the significance is still tied to the liturgy. The meals generally are related to celebratory foods and fasting. In our household, for instance hot-cross buns are a tradition, and we usually grill lamb, unless in-law guests have an aversion to the meat.
And I like that! But then, from the title of my recently-published book, “Harnessing a Heritage” you would probably suspect that.
How about you? Would you like to see holidays that don’t come earlier or later from one year to the next?