rebelling against low expectations

The Purpose of the Holidays: Rest and Remembrance


The holidays are approaching. There will be wonderful scents filling the kitchen as American families bake Thanksgiving meals. Casseroles cooking, turkey sizzling, and the sweet smell of pumpkin pie wafting through the air… can you smell it?

After that, joyful music will be playing wherever you go, festive lights will brighten houses, and shopping centers will be decorated with wreaths. People will drink hot cocoa, bake gingerbread cookies, and buy presents for each other.

I can’t wait for the holidays for many different reasons. The holidays mean fun and festivities. There will be Christmas parties, more family dinners and get-togethers, and quality time with loved ones. The holidays mean we get to enjoy the many flavors we only get to eat at this time of year, and they mean rest from school and other activities.

But while festivities, food, and breaks are fun, those aren’t what makes the holidays important and special. What makes the holidays special is their purpose of remembrance.

The History of Holidays

In Leviticus 23, God establishes feasts and holidays for His chosen people, the Israelites. The Feast of Booths, the Day of Atonement, and more. These holidays were probably some of the first. The Israelites probably looked forward to their yearly feasts and celebrations.

However, the purpose of these God-established holidays wasn’t solely so the Israelites could relax, spend time with family, and have fun. God made these holidays so that the Israelites could take intentional time to remember.

Take the Feast of Booths, for example. In Leviticus 23:42-43, when God speaks about this feast, He says, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” The reason God made this holiday was so the Israelites would remember what God had done for them and how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

Many of the other feasts God established emphasized rest. The Passover, which was meant to remind Israel of how God protected them and delivered them in Egypt, starts and ends with a Sabbath.

When God established the weekly Sabbath, He said that its purpose was also remembrance. God says in Exodus 31:17, “It is a sign forever between Me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”

Though the purpose of the Sabbath was rest, it was also remembrance of how God created the Earth and rested Himself on the seventh day.

Clearly, God’s purpose for Sabbaths and celebrations were for rest and remembrance.

Holidays Now

Just like many holidays in Bible times were intended for remembrance, many holidays today are for remembrance, too. Holidays like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving are all meant to remind us of important events.

During the Christmas season, we focus on Jesus’ miraculous incarnation at Christmas Eve church service. But we should focus on that wonder throughout the entire Christmas season, not just on the 24th of December. Christmas shouldn’t only be for presents, good food, and family time, but for intentionally remembering and celebrating our Savior’s birth. Though that is the purpose of Christmas, we tend to forget and focus more on superficial things. Will it happen this holiday season, too?

Humans are forgetful beings. This becomes obvious throughout the Old Testament when the Israelites forget what God did for them and turn away from Him. It is human nature to be forgetful; therefore, we must continually remind ourselves of the purpose behind the holidays we celebrate.

The purpose of Christmas is to remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to save it (John 3:16). Christmas celebrates the miracle of God becoming a man. He humbled Himself to the point of coming to Earth as a baby born in a manger.

How awesome is that?

When we remind ourselves of that fact, it grows our wonder and awe of God’s love for us. How wonderful must God be to humble Himself and send His Son to an imperfect world to live a hard, persecuted life, die a horrible death, and be raised again?

When we remember God’s humility, it motivates us to be humbler like Him. When we remember that He loved us so much He became a human, we strive to love like Him. When we remember that even Jesus’ life had small beginnings, we know that small things make an impact.

Plan Rest and Remembrance

The purpose of the holiday season is to rest and intentionally remember. This won’t happen by accident. We must plan for it.

The purpose of the holiday season is to rest and intentionally remember. This won’t happen by accident. We must plan for it. Share on X

This Thanksgiving, plan time to reflect on all God has done throughout the year and let your heart fill with gratitude and praise. Maybe even write out a gratitude list and see how long and detailed you can make it. Get your family involved by asking what God has done in their lives that they are thankful for.

This Christmas season, set aside a little time each day to slow down and remember Jesus, the reason we celebrate. Maybe choose an advent devotional or read through the Gospel of Luke.

I hope we all choose rest over busyness this holiday season. I hope we each take the time to praise God for what He has done and enjoy the season all the more because we know its purpose.

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About the author

Isabella Daou

is a 15-year-old writer who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family. She fell in love with Jesus a couple of years ago. When she’s not writing, you can find her swimming, spending time with family and friends, or reading a good book. Find more of Isabella’s writing on her blog, The Public-Schooled Christian </a


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  • I am always vent about how the real meaning of Christmas is hidden in all the fuss (i.e, our family beeps when there are Christmas lights up before Thanksgiving. No offense to anyone who does this!). Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

By Isabella Daou
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →