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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Colonial Quaker Holidays (or Lack Thereof)

An early Quaker meeting (courtesy of U.S. History)
We're just about halfway through what we call Easter Week, the commemoration of the days before Christ's resurrection. Nowadays Americans celebrate Easter in different ways—some with egg hunts, Easter baskets, and springy-looking outfits; others with an emphasis only on the events of the week in AD 30; others with a combination of the two; and others yet with no observation at all. Really, in that regard, not much has changed in the last two hundred and fifty to three hundred years.

Our colonial ancestors also had various ways of celebrating Easter, although there were certainly no plastic eggs, chocolate rabbits, or people in bunny costumes like we see today. For most Christian colonists, Easter was a holy time that brought additional church services during the week and a lamb dinner after the Resurrection Sunday service. However, some Christians, namely the Society of Friends—or Quakers—didn't celebrate it at all.

In the colonial Quaker community (and in the lives of some contemporary Quakers), days in general were handled differently from that of non-Quakers. The common names used for days of the week and months of the year were eschewed due to their original pagan origins; instead, January was First Month, February was Second Month, Sunday was First Day, Monday was Second Day, and so on. As well, holy days (or holidays) were not celebrated at all. This included birthdays, anniversaries, and religious and non-religious holidays. In the Quaker mind, every day of the year was considered holy unto God, not just special days and times. According to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's 1806 Rules of Discipline, "the observation of public fasts, feasts, and what they term holy days; or such injunctions and forms as are devised in man's will for divine worship; the dispensation to which outward observations were peculiar, having long since given place to the spiritual dispensation of the gospel." For the colonial Quaker, every day was worthy of celebration.

While most of us would likely say we prefer celebrating holidays over not doing so, we probably would also agree that there's truth in considering all days holy unto God. Every day is indeed a gift from Him, and research has shown that people are happier when they embrace gratitude as a way of life.

This week we are especially thankful, as we celebrate Jesus' death on the cross to save us from our sins. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV).





12 comments:

  1. Interesting article. May we be thankful daily. Have a blessed Resurrection Day.

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  2. I am certainly a fan of simple holidays and remembering the true reason. Thanks for the interesting post, Christy!

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  3. Interesting post, thanks for sharing Christy. I for one am thankful to God each day. May we remember the true reason for celebrating each holy-day.
    Blessings, Tina

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  4. Thankyou for this post. I do both: Thank God for every day and celebrate holidays. Holiday means Holy Day. It is an extra chance to tell others about Christ. Easter can show that it’s not about the bunny— it’s about the Lamb! Blessings!

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  5. I'd researched this about the Quakers as well. Interesting stuff!

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