By: Mae Lewis
It’s around this time of the year, Valentine’s Day especially, that I hear an undercurrent of complaints about the WHY of holidays, usually by unhappy singles bemoaning the fact that they cannot find a partner. “Holidays are pointless;” “Holidays are just invented by the greeting card companies to create revenue.” And Valentine’s Day is not the only day that this complaint is made. I hear this often throughout the year regarding what seems like superfluous holidays: Halloween, President’s Day, even Christmas sometimes brings about a response akin to “Aren’t we making too much of this?”
But holidays are important for several reasons; while they may be over-marketed by the greeting card companies, they are important for us to not only remember, but celebrate and be fully present for. Here are three reasons why:
- A rhythm to life: Holidays mark the times and seasons. They help us to establish a rhythm to life and keep track of the passing of time. They turn life into a delightful melody that we know and can sing along with: New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and repeat. They offer us a time to relax (if we know how!) and connect with family and friends and the things that make life meaningful. Children grow older, marry, and have their own children. Holidays help us to remember and mark the passing of time as the seasons change and we grow older.
- Reminder to be present. Holidays help us to slow down and take a look around us. Smell the roses. Enjoy the moment. Soak in the laughter. Holidays offer a moment of respite from the busyness of life, and help us to remember what is truly important. In holidays, we have opportunities to create the bonds between family and friends that connect us to our community, our history, and our culture. Celebrating traditions is an important part of this.
- A reminder to celebrate. Life is hard. REALLY hard. But we have much to be thankful for. Holidays remind us that there is always something to celebrate. Everyone wants more love and laughter and life in their days, but holidays remind us that we have to be intentional in creating and preserving love, laughter, and life. Whether it is cherished memories or new chapters, there is always something to celebrate on any holiday.
- Creating a sacred space. The word holiday literally means holy day, and anything that is holy is set apart, sacred, or consecrated. Holidays days are literally set apart from the rest of the ordinary and mundane days of life. They are a reminder that all of life has a divine element to it: beauty, truth, bravery, honor, love. But just like a temple or a church creates a space where the divine touches the common, holidays are a space where the sacred meets the mundane.
Even on Valentine’s Day, amidst the candy and the chocolate, we are reminded that love is the most powerful thing in the human heart. And while Valentine’s Day tends to bring romantic love to the forefront, it is just as important to remember the other loves in our life: family, friends, and pets; it’s a reminder to cherish what you have, and appreciate the divine and holy gift of love.
As another example, Memorial Day is a day that we can celebrate and acknowledge honor, bravery, and sacrifice — even if we don’t personally know of anyone who has served.
Holidays are a reminder that we have extraordinary, divine things to be thankful for, to celebrate, and to share. And while we need to be intentional about creating moments, we do not have to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of holidays in order to make them meaningful, or in order to appreciate them. It is often too easy to rush past, or barely acknowledge, a holiday simply because we feel it doesn’t apply to us.
For each holiday, ask yourself what is sacred about it, and take a moment to find the meaning in that holiday. Then find a way to intentionally celebrate, acknowledge, and embrace that value on that day: Be present, create a tradition, slow down. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate banquet or gift exchange. It can be simply meeting a friend for coffee! But holidays are reminders of what is important about being human, and we are never “making too much” of the things that make us human.
By: Mae Lewis