If you’re looking for a religion that likes to party, I highly recommend Catholicism.
I’m not kidding!
For me, one of the strongest draws to the Catholic Church was what we might call its folk piety, that is, the way the faith of the laypeople has been expressed over the centuries through meals, traditions, and yes, parties. Parties are a sorely missing aspect of Protestant devotional life, ever since the logic of primitivism and sola scriptura led the various denominations to hollow out their liturgical calendars.
But Catholics, with our angels, apparitions, and saints’ days, enjoy a year completely stuffed with reasons to celebrate. That (combined with a much more lax culture around alcohol), leads me to argue that, well, one reason I’m becoming Catholic is that it’s a lot more fun.
Let’s take our neighbors to the south as an example.
From December 9-12th, in the middle of Advent, while Protestants in America are either solemnly lighting their Advent wreaths or listening to sermons about (for conservatives) the real meaning of Christmas or (for progressives) the dangers of consumerism, Mexicans are up for three days celebrating the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of México.
Skim through this video and look at the flowers, the music, and the food:
That’s how the holiday season begins in Mexico.
And it doesn’t end on Christmas. On January 6th, when our Christmas lights are back up in the attic and the everyone has returned to work, Mexico is still partying. Now it’s El Día de los Tres Reyes (Three Kings’ Day), where all of Mexico celebrates the coming of the Magi to adore the child Jesus. More music, more food, more parades:
And there’s more! A month later, on February 2nd, while even the most liturgical-minded Protestants in America are waiting around for Lent to start, and the rest of us are trying to stave off seasonal depression, Catholic Mexico is partying again, this time for Candelaría, a celebration of Mary’s visit to the Temple with the infant Jesus.
(OK, ignore the muñecas, which even I find a little creepy.)
There’s more where that came from, of course, not least among them Día de los Muertos, Mexico’s take on All Souls’ Day.
But the traditions of Mexico are just one example of how Catholics like to party. We might also look to St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, St. Joseph’s day in Italy, or St. Lucia’s day in Sweden. And we can’t forget Carnival, when nearly every Catholic country indulges in a little revelry—much more revelry, I imagine, than most clergy might be comfortable with!
Might I suggest that Catholicism, perhaps more than any other expression of Christianity, is committed to celebrating the story of Jesus in all its fullness? It begins with Christmas and Easter, certainly, but it also includes His Mother, His disciples, and every little saint that He has brought through Heaven’s doors. And so, in the Catholic Church, there’s just more reasons to celebrate!
And we could all stand to have a little more fun.