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Understanding National and Religious Holidays

Updated on September 11, 2010

Why do we celebrate what we celebrate?

When I was young I always wanted to join the military and so when I was 17, I had my parents sign for me to join the military. This was no big surprise for them considering each man in my paternal lineage served this great nation of America since President George Washington was a General and even before this for their community going back until they landed at Plymouth Rock. It was with enthusiasm I joined and my parents signed.

What was my motive for joining? I have always been a person with a conviction of freedom of religion. After going through basic training and airborne school, I was sent to South Korea for my first duty assignment. There was a bit of culture shock because I was exposed to so many different things. So being curious I question the culture to understand it better. There would be holidays and I would ask the Koreans what the holiday was about and they would not know. I found this strange. However, when I got back the USA, I found something just as strange. I began to question our holidays. I also strove to understand why we celebrate what we celebrate but over the years I have seen some many people that have no clue as to why people celebrate their holidays, other than the fact that there is a party, lots of food, family, friends, Barbeques, and for many an excuse to drink.

I had a conviction that I need to teach my sons what holidays mean, and the difference between them. So all the time when I drive I talk with my sons and ask them questions like what is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. A lot of people really have no clue. However, my 9 year old son can tell you the difference is that on Veterans day we are supposed to recognize those brave souls that fought to secure our freedoms and still do fight to secure our freedoms, and Memorial day is to recognize the sacrifice for those that have fought and died in service of our great nation, or those that fought, and survived those great wars but have since then pass on from this world.

I owe it to my ancestors to understand these holidays and I owe it my sons to teach them what holidays are all about because each of us is a link in a great chain. It is our responsibility to our ancestor to become better and to help our children to achieve even greater success then ourselves. So this article is to discuss the meaning of holidays.

The term holiday is a compound word for holy day. Now this should rise some questions for the reader, such as Memorial Day is not a religious holiday it is a national holiday so how can it be holy? The key to this is to understand what the meaning of holy is. Holy, or as it is said in Hebrew Kodesh means to be separated. That which is holy is a thing that has been separated, in other words it is unique and holds a special purpose. The holiday that is Holy is the religious holiday, this is easy to understand. It is the day that has been set aside by the will of the Almighty. What about the national holiday? Well to answer this let’s look at the reasons holiday come about.

Holidays have a connection to the past. At one moment in time a people suffered or struggled from Hunger and so they made a holidays to praise the Almighty for the harvest when it came in, Thanksgiving is an example of this type of holiday. In other cases people suffered from oppression of tyrants and dictators and they were victorious in defeating or shedding the shackles of those tyrants by their fight against those tyrants such as Independence Day. In some cases, only the Almighty could deliver them and so they recognized the Almighty due to His help to them for this salvation, the Jewish holiday of Passover is an example of this and the Christian holiday of Easter has connection to this idea as well.

The fight against tyrants, have brought much suffering and pain. Whether by the hand of the Almighty as the example of the death of the first born in Egypt in the Passover story or by man’s hand as soldier’s waged war on distance battlefields in the blood and mud.

In the case of National holidays, we owe it to our ancestors for the price that was paid on our behalf to take a few moments to recognize their sacrifices, and to ask questions of why we have these traditions and to strengthen them for future generations. When we see the fireworks on the 4th of July we need to remember the images of the fireworks, for they represent the pyrotechnics that were used to light up the battlefield to in order to fight the enemy. We need to teach our children what the words of our constitution mean, and how that affects our lives and theirs, and how it will be passed on to future generations.

In the case of Religious holidays, if we take time for national holidays, then how much more time should we reflect on our religious holidays. In the Passover meal the children ask 4 questions and these questions are designed to teach the lessons of the holiday. I encourage each individual to ask questions of their holiday and to earnestly try to understand its meaning.

In closing, whether it is a National holiday like the 4th of July, religious holiday, or a mixed holiday like Thanksgiving. We need to take time away from the celebration, the family and friends, the alcohol, or fireworks and understand why we are celebrating the holiday, or one day we may lose it because it will have no significance to future generations.

American Holidays


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