I ran across an interesting article recently, the thrust of which was the idea that Millennials have turned once simple birthday party gatherings into “holy month” monstrosities. The author states:
But millennials took those simple pleasures for granted, and now, many parties have evolved into ravenous emotional beasts: month-long, highly intricate ceremonies that eat up all your savings and Facebook notifications. Absence is not an option. Sickness is not an excuse. The rise of the birthdayzilla has transformed birthday parties from simple one-offs to totalitarian birthday months, and everyone must comply.
Now it’s not particularly noteworthy that Millennials have pushed the boundaries of extreme behavior on self-focused holidays. It’s not even all that surprising to me that the author freely uses terminology like “HOLY months” to describe these events. Since humans were designed for worship, we carve out portions of our lives as sacred and we’re going to worship something as holy. Therefore, if you take God out of the social consciousness, we’re likely going to worship ourselves. Makes perfect sense.
What’s really quite intriguing to me, however, is the idea that Millennials are tampering with the traditional notion of holidays (i.e. from the Middle English for “holy days”). In other words, the surprising twist to me is not that the Millennial generation would consider their birthdays to be “HOLY days.” The unique and telling part to me is that they’ve moved beyond “holy DAYS.”
Millennials are largely asynchronous (i.e. not bound by traditional time structures). For instance, the idea of having to watch a TV show on a certain day of the week at a certain time not only seems foreign to the Millennial mind, but inefficient and wasteful. They do their classes online when they want. They stream entertainment content online when they want. They shop online when they want. Those are significant changes from prior generations.
Consequently, from the perspective of time, Millennials are pushing humanity to become less event (time) driven and more lifestyle (content & attitude) driven.
There are unquestionably some implications here for Christianity and the church.
For instance, for years humanity has thought in terms of special events. Even the Church has thought in terms of special events – Christmas, Easter, etc. But consider this – Would we have to have a Christmas Day (or Eve) celebration? Would we have to have an Easter Day celebration? Think carefully here… As Christians, we cannot help but celebrate the sin-removing, life-changing, eternity-altering facts of our Savior’s birth, death, and resurrection. That’s a given. But are we primarily tied to certain days for these celebrations? Or do these facts primarily tie us to new life (and new lifestyles) in Christ?
If there’s any doubt about this Millennial shift from time to content & attitude, event to lifestyle, just keep this post in mind next Christmas when you hear a Millennial say something like, “We’re ‘doing Christmas’ with my parents this weekend and then my husband’s parents next weekend.” That mindset, or language, didn’t exist several generations ago.
Without rehashing the entire history of why Christians arrived at certain dates for celebrations, I think many believers today are in tune with the fact that Christianity borrowed pagan Roman dates for its celebrations. Christmas was in all likelihood linked to Saturnalia. Easter was in all likelihood linked to Eostre. There remains scholarly debate about the exact years, let alone the exact dates, of Christians attaching themselves to these events. So the idea that we MUST celebrate on certain days seems a little silly. Furthermore, we know that Christians were NOT celebrating these events as specific holidays until hundreds of years after Christ’s life on earth. (Dr. Paul L. Maier’s In The Fullness of Time is my top recommendation for such corresponding data.)
The bottom line is simply this – the early Christians did NOT find it necessary to have special celebrations on special dates. The early Christians, did, however find it essential that if you were a follower of Christ, ALL 365 days of the year be fully dedicated to the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior. While the commercialization of “event days” like Christmas is widely understood, it remains a potentially valid case that perhaps such days are more detrimental than helpful.
So, am I advocating the removal of celebratory Christian festivals? No, not necessarily. And I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone is inherently doing anything wrong by celebrating on such days. The more relevant question though is whether or not God designed for the Christian Church to have such days, i.e. are they wise or not?
The words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians should at least give us pause for consideration:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17)
This would appear to give some legs to the argument that special day events were the product of religious observance, but lifestyle is the product of the gospel of Jesus.
At its peak, it’s believed that the Roman Empire had festival celebrations somewhere between half and two-thirds of the days of the calendar year. There seems to be something about the human heart that wants to make one day more sacred than the other. Hmmm.
Realistically, do I think Millennials are going to overturn the concept of holidays? No. It’s been around too long. And I think there are too many Millennials who, while they aren’t wired to think in terms of events, nonetheless enjoy days off from work.
That said, do I think the way we perceive time is changing? Absolutely. Do I think that’ll have profound implications for the way we exist as The Church? Yes. And do I think that’s all bad? Nope.
Most of all, I’m excited for my time in eternity, about which Peter says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Pet. 3:8) At that point, I won’t be bothered by my stupid mistakes from the past. At that point, I won’t be anxious about the uncertainty of future events. At that point, I’ll just be…with the Lord, who by grace washed away my past and secured my future, so that I could finally live in the eternal moment.