Did you know that the Puritans didn't celebrate Christmas or Easter? They associated these celebrations with drunkenness and idolatry and called Christmas 'foolstide'. In England, there was a law passed in 1647 abolishing Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. The Puritans in New England soon passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Even after it became legal again to celebrate, it was still frowned upon by Puritans until the 1850s - meaning that in New England in particular it was virtually non-existent.
There's no doubt that the way our culture celebrates special days is steeped in materialism and not Christ glorifying. So should we follow the Puritans' example? Should say: "every day should be Christmas (and Good Friday, and Easter Sunday)" and leave it at that?
Noel Piper thinks not and I agree. It's pretty clear in the New Testament that we are not under the law of Moses, and not obliged to keep the particular yearly festivals and celebrations that God gave to the nation of Israel. But it's also pretty clear, I think, that the general idea of having celebrations and festivals and remembrances is something good that we can learn from the Old Testament about how to rejoice together in the stories of God's mighty works, remember them and pass them on from generation to generation. And it's pretty clear, too, that there is room for a whole lot of freedom in the particular ways in which we decide to do that.
So I think we ought to celebrate, but we ought to celebrate in counter-cultural ways. We can embrace the chance to teach our kids about Jesus' birth at Christmas, but we need to find ways to shun the materialism and the triviality of secular Christmas. We can take the chance to celebrate God's good gift of life at birthday time - but make sure we're thanking him for the life. We can remember Jesus' death and resurrection at Easter - without adopting the gluttonous traditions of the rest of our culture.
What do you think? Have you seen good examples of ways that families have celebrated some of these sorts of special occasions (including the 'secular' ones like birthdays as well as the 'sacred' ones like Easter and Christmas) in ways that are counter-cultural and memorable and God-honouring and fun? (In the next couple of posts I'll be focusing on Christmas and Easter in particular, so I guess that in this post it might be best to focus on the broader, general issue and on the other, non-Christmas-and-Easter kinds of examples.)