I was going to do this in a voice post... However, I am out of voice posts; so I am doing it as text.
As I have been reading blogs last night and this morning, I have seen gazillions of Halloween posts, which of course reminded me of what today is. I also saw a number of posts from the Pagans on my list; and I must admit to feeling a bit of empathy for them. One person was asking for people's thoughts about her desire to take the day off for religious reasons but feeling that people would think that she just wanted off because it was Halloween... I was too sleep-deprived to respond at the moment when I originally read the post, but I've been thinking about this a lot in light of some of my own rumblings about religious holidays in the past...
The saddest thing in my mind is the fact that the culture at large has deemphasized the true significance of so many holidays so much so that anyone celebrating these various holidays with any sincerity has a difficult time. Even Christmas feels "secularized" in many ways--I've written about it in past entries--and it truly would not bother me to work on Christmas. Many people do have to work on Good Friday and Easter; and I wonder how many Jews who are employed in non-Jewish settings have to work their holidays because Jewish holidays are never given a thought... I know that in Jewish circles, things shut down completely for certain holidays. I know nothing at all about Muslim practices... In my biblical studies, I learn that feast days were instituted for the sake of enabling remembrance and setting the Jewish people apart. But what do you do when your feast days have been overrun and adulterated and you are no longer set apart when you celebrate?
I think about this a lot... I don't worship for the sake of recognition; but I do need space to worship. It is not the day or date that matters as much as the fact that I do worship. In fact, there are some instances in the Old Testament where feast days were celebrated at off times due to circumstances not allowing for the normal feasting times, etc. So it seems to me that God is one who understands when the heart is in the right place and the circumstances will not bend. In fact, when Jesus was criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath, he said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
So if I was to have responded regarding the issue of whether or not to take off a day for the purpose of celebration of a holiday, I would have said that regardless of religious beliefs it should only be done if you are obligated to perform the celebration and there is not an alternate manner for doing it. Especially when the day is tied up with cultural issues where people commonly perceive things differently from what they are, I would not recommend it. Thanksgiving and Christmas present very similar problems, as does Easter... Easter is a very heavy time of church stuff for me; but for a lot of people it is just a good time for long weekend, egg hunt for the kids, and lots of food. Amazingly, my university does not close for Thursday even though there are often religious services on Thursday evenings and many students would like to go home for them--and this is a Christian university.