Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should Christians Celebrate Secular Festivals?

And as I am actively hostile to the 'New Year', a celebration of nothing in particular generally encouraged by states which loathe Christmas, I'll try to make no further mention of this empty, insignificant moment, for which non-devotees now have to buy earplugs if we wish to sleep, since the 'New Year' lot seem to think they are entitled to shatter the midnight peace with colossal explosions and high-pitched whistles.

Peter Hitchens blog, 31.12.10

I’d like to think, though, that my longstanding aversion to making a Big Deal out of New Year’s Eve has something to do with my conviction, which is the Church’s conviction, that the real “new year” begins with First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. And if that’s true, then going bonkers over the turn of the civil calendar is giving a bit more to Caesar than Caesar has a right to receive.

George Weigel, First Things, 19.12.2010

But if the wisdom of Comte was insufficient, the folly of Comte was wisdom. In an age of dusty modernity, when beauty was thought of as something barbaric and ugliness as something sensible, he alone saw that men must always have the sacredness of mummery. He saw that while the brutes have all the useful things, the things that are truly human are the useless ones. He saw the falsehood of that almost universal notion of to-day, the notion that rites and forms are something artificial, additional, and corrupt. Ritual is really much older than thought; it is much simpler and much wilder than thought. A feeling touching the nature of things does not only make men feel that there are certain proper things to say; it makes them feel that there are certain proper things to do. The more agreeable of these consist of dancing, building temples, and shouting very loud; the less agreeable, of wearing green carnations and burning other philosophers alive. But everywhere the religious dance came before the religious hymn, and man was a ritualist before he could speak. If Comtism had spread the world would have been converted, not by the Comtist philosophy, but by the Comtist calendar. By discouraging what they conceive to be the weakness of their master, the English Positivists have broken the strength of their religion. A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions when he is not even ready to wear a wreath round his head for them. I myself, to take a corpus vile, am very certain that I would not read the works of Comte through for any consideration whatever. But I can easily imagine myself with the greatest enthusiasm lighting a bonfire on Darwin Day.

GK Chesterton, Heretics, 1908

For what it's worth, I agree with Chesterton. Celebrating New Year's Eve doesn't seem like an insult to Christmas to me. I don't think we can have too many festivals, though of course some festivals may be anti-Christian or immoral in nature. That's something quite different.

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