Not naming the holidays on the school calendar

The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D. C., has voted not to name the holidays associated with religions on the school calendar.

School will still be dismissed for Christmas, Easter, and the major Jewish holidays.  But when Muslims wanted time off for their holidays, the school board decided to think about holidays like this:  We aren’t observing the religious holidays; rather, we are dismissing classes when large numbers of students are likely to be absent.  So on the school calendar, instead of so much as mentioning “Christmas,” there is just a notice of “no class today.”

Is this silly, does it make sense, or should the schools dismiss classes for Islamic holidays too? [Read more...]

The poppies of the Tower

London is transfixed by a stunning war memorial commemorating Armistice Day, when World War I ended on November 11, 1918, honored in the United States as Veteran’s Day.  All around the iconic Tower of London are  888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each soldier of the Commonwealth who was killed in that war.   A beautiful sea of flowers that looks simultaneously like a horrible sea of blood makes a noble tribute for all veterans.

[Read more...]

All Saints and All Sinners

Some may say, why are you Lutherans making a big deal out of All Saints’ Day? I thought Luther was against all of that cult of the saints stuff. Well, Reformation Christians have a different take on what a saint is. [Read more...]

For All the Saints

Halloween & Reformation Day

Happy Halloween!   Happy Reformation Day!  We’ll be posting on both of those holidays today.  Both have reference, of course, to the really big holiday of the church year on the day after, All Saints’ Day.   All the ghosts and devils were thought to come out the day before All Saints’ Day, since this was their last chance before the holiness of “All Hallows” banished them back into the darkness.  And Luther pounded his theses onto the church door before the big festival the next day.

Can you make any connections between Halloween and Reformation Day?  How about between each of these holidays and All Saints’ Day?  (For example, both Halloween and All Saints’ are days of the dead, one recalling the wages of sin and the other eternal life in Heaven.)

America’s third favorite holiday

Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday,  just after Christmas and Thanksgiving. (See the whole list after the jump.)  Halloween used to be a holiday mainly for children dressing up and going trick-or-treat, but now it has been seized by adults, who also like to dress up and scare themselves.   Why do you think Halloween has become so popular in our culture?   Is there something about American individualism that makes us enjoy dressing up, putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone else?   I hear that the big Halloween dress-up thing for this year is to make yourself up to look like an Ebola victim.   The Halloween vogue would appear to be related to the aesthetics of darkness and horror that seem to be dominant in our popular culture, judging from our movies, books, films, art, television shows, and video games.  This would seem to accord with what the recent pope called our current “culture of death.”  Maybe death provides the mystery, the sense of the uncanny, the non-rational emotions even though they be horrific, that can substitute for the mystery, the sense of the supernatural, and the religious experiences associated with a transcendent faith.

I don’t intend to take an anti-Halloween stance, as such, in this post.  I’m just curious why the holiday has jumped ahead of Easter, patriotic holidays like the 4th of July, and even people’s birthdays in popularity.  What significance do you see in this? [Read more...]


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