Holidays THEN vs. NOW

By Hayden Hall - Copy Desk Chief

Holidays are the ultimate celebrations of us, as people. They bring family and friends together, involve DELICIOUS food, and arguably give students the only shred of hope to get them through the school year. This aside, holidays may be experiencing a shift from traditional to modern. Is it unwanted? Is it completely necessary? It is totally relevant.  

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, the thoughts of scrumptious stuffing, terrific turkey, and perfect potatoes dance in our heads. However, when we trace this holiday back, nearly everyone knows the pilgrim-Indian celebration that began the uniquely American tradition of a grand Thanksgiving feast to celebrate the blessings of prosperity, small or large, every American enjoys. Now, when we move past the origin stories of Thanksgiving, we encounter some interesting origins for our American holidays.

It will surprise no person that Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth and how He changed the world. Then, look at Hanukkah, a holiday with origins nearly unknown to the majority of Americans. Hanukkah is a celebration that commemorates the rededication of a temple in Jerusalem that the Jewish people liberated from the Assyrian oppressors. It took eight days to do this, according to legend, and thus the eight-days of Hanukkah are celebrated with presents, games, songs, and food.

Look to Easter for a Christian-celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Valentine’s Day comes from a Roman festival, “Lupercalia”, celebrating fertility and love and was dedicated to Saint Valentine. Mother’s Day, began by the Greek people who honored their mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. Oddly, the origin of Father’s Day began in 1910 from a college celebration in YMCA of the student dads. It somehow spread throughout the nation from then on and became prized as an American tradition. Halloween, going all the way back to the first century A.D., comes from the declaration of November 1st as All-Saint’s Day. Thus, speculation and rumor began that October 31st was All-Hallow’s Eve, when the demons came and tried to possess everyone before they were cleansed--and in response to this-- the people began dressing up to ward the devils away. Finally, in an obscure way of simply sitting and eating, Super Bowl Sunday (yes, an actual American traditional holiday) celebrates the pinnacle of America’s new favorite pastime, football.

All of these holidays have an origin, but with their origin, also comes their progression and evolution into the unique celebrations they are today. When asked about her childhood Thanksgivings, Ann Hall, 71, said, “We all sat around the table, numbering probably 20 in total. It was great fun, then a prayer, then greater fun.” A selection of food has been labeled and ultimately have become the “normal” Thanksgiving dinner, Ann’s dinners consisted of the precise collection. “Turkey, of course, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, and finally a delicious pumpkin pie. I always looked forward to that pie!”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, junior Elizabeth Frantz said, “My family does Thanksgiving a bit… differently. We usually spend it on vacation somewhere in the states. Most of the time, we just eat a dinner at a fancy restaurant. I’m sad to say I haven’t eaten a Thanksgiving turkey in about five years.” Elizabeth’s circumstance is not as uncommon as some would think. Gavin Polly, a senior at American Fork High School, said, “Most of the time, we don’t even eat together as a family. We just take a bit of the turkey and the mashed potatoes we made, and then leave to our rooms. Sometimes we watch a movie, but most of the time we just sit and eat in our rooms or somewhere in the house. It’s a bit odd.” As sad as this may sound, when looking at the statistic, only 79% of Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

On the topic of Christmas, the way in which the holiday is celebrated has no specific parameters, but most Americans agree upon the tradition of giving presents on Christmas morning. Looking to the past, Thomas Rose Jr., 81, said, “I grew up in the 1930’s, you know, the Depression was happening then, and we weren’t able to get [many presents]. One particularly bad year, we only got a candy bar for Christmas. I was actually really excited.” During the years of the Great Depression, the tradition of giving presents for the holiday was actually almost lost in time. With little money and little opportunity, the ability to give gifts was scarce. However, now, things are a little bit different in the amount some may receive for their Christmas presents. “Last year, our Christmas was a family trip out to England. It was so much fun, because we got to tour around and then on Christmas day, we got a few really nice presents in our hotel [in] London,” said junior Caleb Uhl. Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the United States, so there is no wonder to why there are multiple ways in which everyone may celebrate.

There is no shortage of these “breakings of tradition” for other American holidays. McKell McIntyre, a junior at Lone Peak celebrates Easter by having the kids hide the eggs and then the adults try and find the eggs. Sophomore Kennedy Madsen celebrates the Fourth of July with a giant family reunion numbering in the near-hundreds. For Oyeon Cheoksi, a 77-year old man from Korea who now lives in Highland, UT, the celebration of Father’s Day overlaps with the Korean tradition of “Parent’s Day” and is celebrated by their family by dressing up in their traditional robes and then giving expensive gifts to their father.

Holidays change and are spread in interesting ways all-throughout the nation. Whether you celebrate traditionally, untraditionally, or mix cultures in order to preserve your heritage, a holiday is unique for every family and person. They, the holidays, bring people together as one, unifying celebration of culture and the blessings in each life. For every American, foreigner, and student: now matter how you celebrate, celebrate, because it’s more than just a tradition. It’s a memory-in-the-making that comes around once-a-year.