We Are What We Celebrate… And How!

Every holiday offers its own reason for celebration, but the overall reason we need holidays is so we can know who we are. Holidays preserve our collective memory and provide us with a common identity. Without a memory, we can’t know who we are.

Holidays help us celebrate renewal (New Year’s Day), love (Valentine’s Day), our heroes (birthdays of great leaders), mom, dad, veterans, liberty (4th of July), Jesus’ first coming (Christmas), His going (Good Friday), His rising (Easter), and more. The Bible is full of holidays, celebrations and special feasts. People needed them then and we need them now, though many of our holidays are new and different.

A friend of mine reads “A Christmas Carol” (by Dickens) to his family every Christmas. It never gets old. This inspired me to compile a list (below) of suggested readings, poems, songs and classic films for enriching our holidays and special days. I will leave it to you to locate and select the readings, poems, tunes or movies you may want to use over the years to inspire your family, friends or church. Most can be found on line. Indeed, our families, friends, churches and our entire nation needs more inspiration these days. Use some selections below to build family holiday traditions and create ties that bind us to our heritage and to each other.

Holiday Recommendations

New Years Day – January 1

  • Isaiah 61 (“The year of the Lord’s favor”), Old Testament.
  • Jeremiah 29:4-14 (“Hope and a future”), Old Testament.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (“New Creation”), the Apostle Pau, New Testament.
  • Philippians 3 (“Press forward”), by the Apostle Pau, New Testament.
  • “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace,” by St. Francis of Assisi.
  • “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving (from his collection of 29 short stories and essays titled; “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.”, 1820).
  • “What Men Live By.” Short story by Leo Tolstoy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday – January 15, 1929

  • “I Have a Dream,” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963.
  • “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963.
  • “Cooper Union Address,” Abraham Lincoln, New York, February 27, 1860.
  • Atlanta Exposition Speech by Booker T. Washington, September 18, 1895.
  • “To Kill a Mocking Bird“ (Movie; 1962 – Robert Mulligan).

Ronald Wilson Reagan’s Birthday – February 6, 1911

  • “A Time for Choosing,” Ronald Reagan, Republican National Convention, speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater, October 27, 1964.
  • First Inaugural Address, Ronald Wilson Reagan, January 20, 1981.
  • Farewell Address, Ronald Wilson Reagan, January 11, 1989.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday — February 12, 1809

  • “A House Divided,” speech by Abraham Lincoln, State Republican Convention on June 16, 1858.
  • First Inaugural Address, by Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861.
  • Second Inaugural Address, by Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865

Valentine’s Day — February 14

  • Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), in the Old Testament.
  • 1 Corinthians 13, by the Apostle Paul. New Testament.
  • “The Greatest Thing in the World,” by Henry Van Dyke.
  • “Romeo and Juliet” (Movie; 1968 – Franco Zeffirelli).
  • “Love Affair“ (Movie; 1939 – Leo McCarey), starring Irene Dunne.
  • “Marty“ (Movie; 1955 – Delbert Mann), with Earnest Borgnine (recommended for singles).

President’s Day — third Monday in February

  • Inaugural Address, by George Washington, New York City, April 30, 1789.
  • “Have Faith in Massachusetts,” Calvin Coolidge speech, January 7, 1914.
  • “Have Faith in Massachusetts,” Calvin Coolidge speech, January 7, 1914.

George Washington’s Birthday — February 22, 1732

  • Rules of Civility,” from a notebook belonging to George Washington as a boy. (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, pg. 74).
  • Advice to His Nephew, by George Washington, 1783 (see “The Words We Live By,” Brian Burrell, p. 292).
  • “Farewell Address,” September 19, 1796, in Philadelphia.

St. Patrick’s Day— March 17

  • “The Quiet Man,” (Movie, 1951 – John Ford), with John Wayne & Maureen O’Hara.

Good Friday/Easter Sunday – Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon after the day of the vernal equinox; It can never occur before March 22 or after April 25

  • Matthew 21-28, New Testament.
  • Mark 11-16, New Testament.
  • Luke 19-24, New Testament.
  • John 12-21, New Testament
  • The NiceneCreed, Council of Nicea, A/D. 325).
  • The Apostle’s Creed, originated in the 7th century A.D
  • The Grand Inquisitor (from The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoyevski, book V, chapter 5. Recommended for a Good Friday reading.

Mother’s Day – second Sunday in May

  • “An Excellent Wife,” Proverbs 31, Old Testament.
  • “Mama’s Bank Account” by Kathryn Forbes. Or, view the movie, “I Remember Mama,” (1948), inspired by Forbes’ book
  • “The Widow and Her Son,” by Washington Irving (“The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.”, 1820; a collection of 29 short stories and essays).
  • “Not Without My Daughter” (Movie; 1991 – Brian Gilbert), with Sally Fields.

Armed Forces Day – third Saturday in May

  • “The Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.
  • “The Red Badge of Courage” (Movie: 1951), starring Audie Murphey.
  • “Sergeant York“ (Movie; 1941 – Howard Hawks), true story about Alvin York’s life-changing conversion to Christianity and WW1 heroics.

Memorial Day – last Monday in May

  • “The Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.
  • “Mrs. Miniver “ (Movie; 1942 – William Wyler). Depicts the war’s effects on family and life in London. Letter to Mrs. Bixby [Nov. 21, 1864], Abraham Lincoln (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, page 177).
  • • “Since You Went Away” (Movie; 1944 – John Cromwell). The opening frame reads: “This is a story of the unconquerable fortress: the American home, 1943 (war time portrayal of the home front).
  • “The White Cliffs of Dover” (Movie; 1944 – Clarence Brown). Irene Dunne stars as an American who marries a British soldier and faces both world wars, first as a wife, then as a mother.

D-Day – June 6, 1944

  • 40th Anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan, speech in Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy, France, June 6, 1984.
  • “Saving Private Ryan”, Movie (1998 – Steven Spielberg) with Tom Hanks.

Flag Day – June 14

  • New York Times editorial, June 14, 1940 (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, page 724).
  • “The Star Spangled Banner” (lyrics), by Francis Scott Key, 1814.

Father’s Day – third Sunday in June

  • Sir Walter Raleigh’s Instructions to His Son, 1616 (see “The Words We Live By,” Brian Burrell, p. 290).
  • Ephesians 6:1-4, New Testament.
  • “I Know of a Lovely Garden,” Martin Luther, letter to his son Hans in 1530 (see “The Moral Compass,” edited by William J. Bennett, pg. 535).
  • “If,” great poem by Rudyard Kipling.
  • “Parenthood“ (Movie; 1989) with Steve Martin & Mary Steenburgen.

Independence Day – July 4

  • The Declaration of Independence, approved by congress, July 4, 1776.
  • 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, speech by Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th President, July 5, 1926, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • “Liberty or Death,” Speech by Patrick Henry to the Second Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775 (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, pg. 519).
  • “Paul Revere’s Ride,” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  • “The New Colossus,” poem by Emma Lazarus (1883(, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
  • “The Bunker Hill Oration,” by Daniel Webster, 1825 (a bit long).
  • “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington“ (Movie; 1939 -Frank Capra), with James Stewart.
  • “Yankee Doodle Dandy“ (Movie; 1942 – Michael Curtiz) starring James Cagney,

Labor Day – first Monday in September

  • Proverbs 6: 6-11, Old Testament.
  • “The Village Blacksmith,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, pg. 397).
  • “Work,” poem by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933).
  • “Success” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; from “The Ladder of Saint Augustine.” (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, pg. 422).

Patriot Day – September 11, 2001

  • 9.11 Address from the Oval Office by President George W. Bush.
  • “My Native Land,” poem by Sir Walter Scott. President’s Address to Congress, George W. Bush, Sept. 20, 2001.
  • “The Patriot“ (Movie; 2000 – Roland Emmerich), starring Mel Gibson.

Columbus Day – second Monday in October (celebrates the arrival of Columbus on October 12, 1492)

  • “Apologia,” by Christopher Columbus.

Reformation Day – October 31

  • “Luther” (Movie; 2003 – Eric Till), starring Joseph Fiennes as Luther.
  • “The Freedom of a Christian,” by Martin Luther.
  • “A Mighty Fortress,” Hymn by Martin Luther (1529).

Election Day – the Tuesday after the first Monday of November in even-numbered years

  • Federalist No. 57, by James Madison.

Veteran’s Day – November 11 (the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War 1)

  • “In Flanders Fields,” by Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 – 1918), Canadian physician, soldier and poet.
  • “The Battlefield,” (1839), poem by William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878).
  • “The Best Years of Our Lives” (Movie; 1946 – William Wyler), American classic of three veterans returning home after WW2, readjusting to civilian life.

Thanksgiving – fourth Thursday in November

  • The Mayflower Compact” (1620).
  • Edward Winslow, letter, Dec. 12, 1621.
  • William Bradford’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, November 29, 1623.
  • George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789.
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1863.
  • “Man Without a Country,” by Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909).
  • “Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers,” poem by Felicia Hemans (see “The Book of Virtues,” edited by William J. Bennett, page 790).

Pearl Harbor Day – in Remembrance of December 7, 1941

  • Day of Infamy” speech (Declaration of War), Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941.
  • “Wings of Eagles“ (Movie; 1957 – John Ford), with John Wayne.
  • “Pearl Harbor“ (Movie; 2001 – Michael Bay) starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore.

Christmas Day – December 25

  • Isaiah 9:1-7, New Testament.
  • Matthew 1:18 – 2:23, New Testament.
  • Luke 1-2, New Testament.
  • “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens.
  • “The Story of the Other Wise Man,” by Henry Van Dyke.
  • The Messiah, oratorio by George Frideric Handel, 1741.
  • “A Christmas Story” (Movie; 1983 – Bob Clark).

Happy Holidays!


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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