GETTYSBURG, Pa. - The word holiday comes from "holy day," but the way we celebrate holidays is anything but holy, said Gettysburg College philosophy professor Steven Gimbel. Instead, he argues, we use our holidays to celebrate vices rather than virtues.
According to Gimbel, the traditional seven deadly sins actually fit nicely, or naughtily, with significant days throughout the year. Society often designates them as celebrations of something significant and positive, but the actual rituals tell a completely different story.
"This is not necessarily a bad thing," said Gimbel. "We all need to let our hair down and blow off steam from time to time. At the same time, it may also be seen as giving a ‘social stamp of approval' to aspects of our lives that we would rather not advance, which can warrant concern."
Gimbel offered the following list of sins and corresponding holidays:
Gluttony: "For adults, this is what Thanksgiving is all about. It may not be what we tell the kids, but the way we actually celebrate is to be thankful for extra notches on the belt. Of course, the kids don't actually listen to what we tell them about Thanksgiving because the sugar rush has not yet worn off from their gluttonous festivities at Halloween."
Greed: "There is much made about ‘the reason for the season' but as any retailer will tell you, the holiday season is not about peace on earth or about securing good will to all. It is about collecting the loot and getting what you want. More, more, more, me, me, me. Santa asks not what you can do for your country, but what can be done for you. The seemingly ubiquitous gift cards testify to the fact that it's not the thought that matters, it's that you get."
Lust: "While Halloween with the proliferation of suggestive costumes is fast taking over this slot for adults, Valentine's Day is certainly the celebration of bodily desire. While we set the day aside as a celebration of the more noble romantic love, the chocolate and flowers are more often than not intended to do more than express adoration."
Sloth: "On the day we set aside to honor working people, Labor Day, we celebrate by not actually working. The point is to take off, hang out at the beach, have a relaxing barbeque, or do something that requires as little effort as possible."
Pride: "July 4 has gone from a celebration of those wonderful ideals held self-evident by our Founding Fathers and turned it into something more akin to a high school pep rally where we demand team spirit. Instead of taking the opportunity to think hard about what is wonderful about this nation and what it is that we could do to make it better, fairer, more moral to its citizens and our unique place in the world, we rather use it to close our mind to the thought that we have all the answers and dare anyone to challenge us."
Envy: "April 15 is a day when we come together to give what we need to in order to make sure that our country's priorities can be carried out. Whether it is defense of the nation's borders, helping our needier fellow citizens with healthcare or funding the process that gives us our laws, this is the day when we all pitch in. Yet, it has become a national kvetch-fest where all we think about is how we are not getting what others get."
Wrath: "Our newest national day of remembrance, Sept. 11, has unfortunately been very quickly been transformed from a time to remember those who lost their lives, reflect soberly on deeper questions about the special place held by the United States and how it is that we are perceived, to a time to promote revenge and retribution."
Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with approximately 2,600 students. It is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.
Posted Dec. 21, 2007
By Kendra Martin