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January 23, 2014

KLITZMAN: Remembering history for what it is

Years ago one of my doctoral professors introduced me to the term “Recreating History.” In other words, changing what actually did happen to fit today’s (or tomorrow’s) purposes. In my opinion, this concept totally fits what some are trying to do in terms of religion and its place in our country’s history and development. I have been reflecting on how this recreating of history has impacted our celebrations.

I think of the time span of mid-October through early January as the “Holiday Season.” During this time frame, we enjoy a mixture of “civic” as swell as “faith-based” holidays. The term “mixture” may be a bit generous given our country’s roots and the basic, fundamental concepts by which we became a country which were most certainly interwoven with religion.

It is well documented that the United States was founded in large part to allow for freedom of religious expression. The term Judeo-Christian comes to mind! Many of the wonderful holidays we celebrate have religious overtones and actually were started as strictly religious holidays. The civic part came about later.

Halloween has become one of the biggest civic holidays of the year. There are near-record sales for candy and costumes, cards, decorations, etc. This very popular civic holiday has its roots in the religious observance of All Hallow’s Eve which was originally established to recognize and remember the dead, including saints, martyrs, and the faithfully departed believers. Today Halloween is primarily celebrated as a civic holiday. That is OK as long as we understand its religious roots.

Some of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving depict the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal of thanks, each praying to a Being/Spirit greater than themselves. Were they saying the same prayer? No. Were they expressing the same basic concepts of belief? I have to say yes. Today Thanksgiving is a well observed civic holiday; but, again, don’t forget its roots are faith-based.

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