Sacrifice During the Holidays – Jacob Brevard

Holidays are always a joyful time for people to get together with family, eat good food and enjoy the company of friends. At one of our interfaith meetings the topic of discussion was important holidays in your religion. From my Catholic background the two most important religious holidays to our religion are Christmas and Easter. The 4-week period leading up to Christmas is called Advent where we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. Common activities during Advent are prayer books, giving campaigns, reconciliation, and community events/gatherings. Then on Christmas Eve (December 24th) we have Christmas Mass and in my family’s tradition we go home and eat a big feast. Then on Christmas morning we go to my grandparent’s house to get together with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

The second most important holiday in my religion is Easter. The 40-day period leading up to Easter is called Lent and is centered around sacrifice. During this period people choose to give up or abstain from something along with not eating meat on Fridays. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday and continues through Holy Week. At the Ash Wednesday service everyone receives the sign of the cross in ashes on their forehead to remind them “that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we fast for the whole day. What people choose to give up is up to each individual, but I have always found that the harder the sacrifice, the closer I feel to the holiday. The Lenten season typically has a pretty solemn mood to it because everyone is sacrificing similarly to how Christ suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Common activities during this holiday season are fasting, prayer, reconciliation, and the stations of the cross. All these activities serve the purpose of preparing you for the holiday.

I saw one underlying similarity from the people who shared their most important holidays during our meeting. In Islam, Ramadan is a 30-day period of fasting. One member of our group shared that the community aspect of this holiday is very strong especially when you break-fast together. The times when you break-fast the community has a large feast, and everyone is happy and enjoying each other’s company. This is like Lent with the idea of sacrificing a necessity to bring you closer to God. Similarly, in the Jewish tradition with the holiday of Yom Kippur where they fast for the entire day and reflect on their prior year. One member in our group mentioned that this period brings families closer together because they are all going through the same thing. This is also like Lent in the idea of sacrificing and reflecting on the past to bring you closer to God. This struck me as a common similarity of the holidays that members of our interfaith group chose to share. It was really intriguing to link them all together. They all are unique and have their differences, but the underlying mission and ideas are similar. 

In closing, holidays may always be portrayed as fun and joyful and that is not always the case. Some holidays are more somber than others depending on the ideas behind them. Sacrifice is difficult and the harder something is for you to do the more meaningful it is. All in all, religious holidays are meant to bring you closer to your faith and to God.