Holidays: Take Them Down a Notch or Take Them Back?

I’ve seen an article circulating on Facebook that got me thinking. For some background, you probably need to read the article:

Let’s Bring the Holidays Down a Notch Article

The author makes some pretty valid points. I completely understand her frustration. We live in a society of excess. We all have too much. The last things our kids need on holidays is more stuff – more candy, more toys, etc. It doesn’t help that the “stuff” is everywhere – from their schools to our supermarkets  – “stuff” is being marketed.

However, I am a realist. I used to work be a Certified Public Accountant and spent years auditing profitable companies. I understand the business world. Things that sell are not going away. And things sell around the holidays. People love to shower their children with stuff. Now I understand it’s not all people and I’m certainly not saying it’s right, but it happens…and it’s not going away….

Also, I understand that parents are already weighted down by too many expectations as it is. We all do too much. As a child, I remember stores being closed on holidays, or Sundays, or seriously shutting down at 5. Now everything is 24/7. Many stores are open 24/7 – people can get in touch with you 24/7 – it is expected that you are available because you have an Iphone.

Parents don’t just worry about making money and feeding their children – parents now worry about second languages, sports, music appreciation, academic success, etc. – it’s a very competitive global field are kids are entering now and more seems to be required of us as caretakers. So, the last thing we need is to throw in more “stuff” around the holidays…

And yet….

Because “things sell around the holidays” our kids are going to see this stuff. My realist former accountant self says that making an appeal to teachers, parents, and sunday school workers isn’t going to fix this issue. Supermarkets still stock the goodies, our children will still have friends who have the goodies, and, let’s be honest…how many adults do you know that excessively celebrate Valentine’s Day (extravagantly spending on their valentine), St. Patrick’s Day (drinking green adult beverages), or Christmas (buying gifts for family or friends), just to name a few?

I think the better solution as believers is to TAKE BACK our holidays. Most over-commercialized holidays actually center around something with Christian origins, believe it or not:

Christmas – celebration of Christ’s birth, focusing on his humble birth in a lowly manger

Easter – celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which was preceded by his horrific death on the cross

All Hallows Eve (Halloween) – evening before All Saints Day, which is a day for honoring all believers

Valentine’s Day – celebration of St. Valentine (a believer), who suffered for helping Christian couples wed

St. Patrick’s Day – celebration of St. Patrick (a believer), who suffered immensely (was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Ireland). When he escaped and returned home, God placed it on his heart to return to Ireland and spread the “good news” to the Irish

Rather than getting bogged down in the “commercialization” of the holidays, I think it’s time we focus on the origins of the holidays, and teach the history to our children. For instance, in the article I referenced at the beginning of this post, the author laments about her children wanting to search for gold and talking about leprechauns. In actuality, leprechauns and pots of gold have nothing to do with St. Patrick and the actual origins of St. Patrick’s Day. Rather than focusing on those items this St. Patrick’s Day, my son and I read a wonderful book (“The Story of St. Patrick’s Day”) which notes that leprechauns are imaginary, and we made a Shamrock out of construction paper that copied what St. Patrick did when he explained the Trinity to the Irish – three leaves to the Shamrock and three parts of the Trinity:


We still talked about the holiday and celebrated the holiday, but we really just focused on the origins of the holiday and tried to use this as an opportunity to talk about God.

We did something similar for Valentine’s Day. I did not buy Valentines for Shaan’s preschool class. Instead, I bought a roll of 12 heart-shaped suckers for $1 at Dollar Tree and pasted them to homemade Valentines we made. Shaan made hearts with his handprints for each child and we used the Valentines as a chance for him to practice writing his letters:

In addition to making Valentines for his classmates, we also made one for ourselves and talked about this relevant Bible verse:

We also learned how to spell “VALENTINE” while focusing on John 3:16:

And we read “The Story of Valentine’s Day” which gives young children some background information on St. Valentine:

None of this stuff is hard or expensive (basically I’m just using construction paper for all the crafts, and if you don’t want to buy books for your children you can find the stories of St. Patrick and St. Valentine online). But I’m not just ignoring the holidays altogether. Instead, I’m trying to use the holidays to teach the gospel message to my child. That’s how most of these holidays originated, so why not celebrate them! God is not against celebrating holidays. There are many instances of “Feast days” in the Bible – Purim, Passover, etc. Jesus earnestly desired to eat and celebrate the Passover with His disciples! There is nothing wrong with us celebrating the holidays as long as we are celebrating the Lord of the holidays. It doesn’t mean we give in to the holiday overkill (from the standpoint of focusing on the “commercialized items” like Easter bunnies, Santa, leprechauns, etc.). But it can mean that instead of taking the holidays down a notch, we can TAKE THEM BACK! Sometimes, I think MORE emphasis needs to be placed on the holidays – not on the “stuff,” but on the messages of the holidays, the “origins” of the holidays –  they are a great time to celebrate Christ, His word, the gospel message, and challenge ourselves and our children to reflect our relationship with the Lord.

So, what do you think – as it relates to the holidays – should we take them down a notch or take them back (or both!) I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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