Holiday Blessings:  FAITH, FAMILY, FESTIVALS, FOOD, & FUN,  Chapter 3


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  (Galatians 5:1)



Some holidays celebrate a world-changing miracle, such as CHRISTMAS: Christ’s arrival in Bethlehem (fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Micah 5:2), as Immanuel (which is Hebrew for “God with us”), or Christ’s resurrection from the dead: EASTER.

Many other occasions involve celebrating the joy of God’s providence in daily events, recognizing that God’s blessings are not limited to “miracles” —  such as when the post-exilic Jews rejoiced at the reading of God’s Word during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah chapter 8, especially Nehemiah 8:9-12).  However, either way, whether we  commemorate God’s supernatural miracles or God’s providential and sanctifying interventions in human affairs (such as the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving at Plymouth), the holy occasions or remembrance should be special days of reverence toward God.

Other holidays commemorate days of national patriotic importance, such as national independence days or other special political heritage events (America’s 4th of July, Memorial Day, Armistice Day, Constitution Day; Norway’s 17th of May; Isle of Man’s Tynwald Day; Gibraltar’s National Day; etc.). Other patriotic days celebrate notable government officials (George Washington’s Birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, Queen’s Birthday, etc.).

Some hero celebrations apply, on a proportional basis, moreso to a specific part of a nation’s population than they apply to that nation as a whole. In other words, some special days are especially appreciated by a “subculture” people-group within a particular country or regional area.  Such special celebration days are herein designated as “cultural hero celebrations” (Leif Eiriksson Day, Christopher Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, etc.).

Many festivals celebrate a specific time of year, such as New Year’s Day (which may refer to the customary New Year’s Day, or the Jewish New Year’s Day, or the Chinese New Year’s Day). The summer solstice is celebrated in some places as Midsummer’s Day. Other such annual calendar-fixed days include Corn Planting Day for the Mayas, Groundhog Day, spring equinox, autumn equinox, and the winter solstice.

Somewhat similar are agriculture-focused days that celebrate seasonal harvest cycles (Feast of Firstfruits, Japan’s harvest moon festival, Dungeness crab festival, sweet potato festival, Hatch pepper harvest celebration, the Browningsville Apple Bee, etc.).

Family relationships and family history events are routinely celebrated, as well, as is illustrated by Mother’s Day (when children call their mothers), Father’s Day (when children call their fathers “collect”), birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and divorce anniversaries (just kidding on that one!).

Some annual celebrations appreciate the value of workers (Labor Day, International Workers Day, Iceland’s Seamen’s Day, Iceland’s Tradesmen’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Boxer Day, etc.).

It is customary to also celebrate certain kinds of beginnings (baptisms, baby christenings, weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, Bar Mitzvahs, Bath Mitzvahs, new ship launchings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, ground-breaking ceremonies, housewarmings, lawyer swearing-in ceremonies, ecclesiastical ordination ceremonies, etc.).

Likewise, many types of achievement milestones (such as promotions in employment, political victory celebrations) and “endings” are celebrated (inductions into academic honor societies, ceremonies to recognize being awarded a black belt in a martial arts discipline, high school graduations, college graduations, even kindergarten graduations!).

The most ubiquitous solemn closure ceremonies, of course, are funerals. Other somewhat bittersweet (though less solemn) occasions include going-away parties, such as retirement parties, of “send-off” parties for friends who are moving out of town, or for military personnel who are being deployed to distant shores.

And there are many other kinds of holidays, festivals, celebrations, and memorials, each commemorating something or someone of importance. There is even a special national holiday for celebrating the Icelandic language: Dagur ίslenskrar tungu (“Day of the Icelandic Tongue”), celebrated on November 16th !

What follows, in the ensuing chapters of this study (D.v.), is an attempt to review a variety of holiday sand festivals, some well-known and some so obscure that few readers have ever heard of them, in order to show the wonderful diversity of festive occasions that are celebrated both near and far.

In order to avoid a chaotic “spaghetti” review, however these diverse holidays and festivals are categorized according to patterns, i.e., what kind of purpose underlies the reason for the celebration?

For convenience in categorizing, 15 kinds of holidays and festivals are introduced and illustrated below. Afterwards category # 16 is used as an extra category of miscellaneous “others” that don’t smoothly fit into any of the previous 15 categories.

Of course, many of these holidays and festivals (to be described, hereinafter, D.v.) will represent ones appreciated and celebrated by this author, in order that this “book” may include some personal memories (including memorable blessings) that showcase how annual holidays and other special event days can blend remembrance, recreation, and reverence.


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