Remembering School Holidays
Many of us were too young (or inattentive) to realize the cultural significance of the Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963 that changed all that we had enjoyed about school holidays. In its Engel v. Vitale and Abington v. Schempp decisions the Supreme Court ruled that public schools may teach about various religious holidays, their origins, histories and general meanings but celebrating or even implying significance to those holidays was forbidden. Celebrating religious holidays through sacred music, Bible readings, prayer or personal testimonies in public schools was suddenly illegal. Although the response at the time was mixed, it was over for holidays as we knew them.
Not only did these decisions immediately impact secondary education, but religious components of holiday observances quickly diminished in higher education. Prayers at special ceremonies such as convocations, graduations and dedications were eliminated at Concord. What formerly had been a part of the fabric and celebration of life in the Athens We Know (and throughout the country) was forbidden in public institutions. The Supreme Court decisions effectively altered the bond between the community of faith within the town and its schools, or at least in the way those traditions could be expressed openly. In this section we remember Thanksgiving before it became the Fall Recess, Christmas before it was replaced by a Winter Holiday, and Easter before it was Spring Break. Here site visitors describe and illustrate with photographs some of their favorite memories of both religious and secular holidays.