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Rise of the “nones”

Will Americans lose their holidays along with faith?

by: Kory Stone/Business manager

Over the last decade, people have been losing their faith in any one religion. Research done by groups such as the Pew Research Center indicate that many of these people have become “Nones,” individuals with no religious affiliation. Studies show that this group is the fastest and steadiest-growing sect of a belief system in the United States. “Nones” include agnostics, atheists and spiritualists and have reach 20 percent of the overall U.S. Population. Thirty-three percent of those under thirty are in this category.

What does this mean for the holidays? So many, like Ashura, Hanukkah, Yule and Christmas, are are based in religion, so will they disappear along with faith?

A look throughout history would suggest otherwise. Holidays change and adapt as culture changes and evolves. Christmas, the most widely practiced December holiday in America, is hardly a Christian holiday and derives many of its traditions from sources other than the Christian faith.

Stephanie Strowmatt, a student of Lake Land college and a self-defined “None,” said she will celebrate Christmas this year even though she has no religious affiliation. To her, the holiday is simply the tradition of gathering with family and friends, having a giving spirit and being jolly. “It’s like Thanksgiving, Part two,” she explained.

As Strowmatt’s statement suggests, people in general will not lose their holiday spirit. Though the religion in the holidays may disappear, many Americans are still very traditional about them. Holidays break up the monotonous flow of the year; they bring and bind together families, friends and communities. People celebrate holidays because they are fun and everyone needs a break from school and jobs. Holidays also give people a chance to celebrate certain aspects of life or culture that they cherish. People can still enjoy the symbolism of the holiday without having to believe in the literal translation.

Changes in the holidays can be noted in the switch from the phrase “Merry Christmas” to the more politically correct “Happy holidays.” The latter phrase allows for people of any  faith-or lack thereof-to participate in social and communal events. Through this has much to do with polices that may be interpreted as violating the separation of church and state, it just a sign of the more secular times.

Though religion is slipping away, there are many things people can take with them into the future. There is often beautiful symbolism and positive or “spiritual” concepts that reinforce meaning and hope in peoples’ lives. So, for those that are “Nones” and like to learn or grow culturally, a fun experiment to try would be to celebrate a religious holiday that is unfamiliar. Ashura, when Muslims observe the Prophet Muhammad by fasting in soldarity, is Dec. 5. The Feast of Saint Nicholas is Dec. 6 and Dec. 8 is Bodhi Day, the day Buddha vowed to sit under the tree until he reached enlightenment. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins Dec. 20. The following day marks Yalda, the Zoroastrian celebration of the winter solistic. The pagan holiday Yule-where many Christmas traditions derive, is on Dec. 22, also observing the solstice.

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