Transcript for SUPER BOWL XLVII - History of Sunday

Steve Paulson: This hour we are talking about football at the superbowl, of course not everyone is a fan including our own Ann Strainchamps who is right here in the studio with me, so I have to ask you Anne....Are you going to be watch the game?  Strainchamps: Nope, I will not be watching fat men chasing each other down a big green field.  I will be joining all the other football agnostics at the shopping mall or the grocery store.  As a working mom I have always found football Sunday a great time to get errands done. Frnakly, because the stores and streets are pretty empty.  But while we're on the subject of Super Bowl, actually there's always one thing I've been wondering....why is Super Bowl Sunday, I mean why isn't it Super Bowl Saturday?  Saturday is a fun day, you know, it's a play date, right?  You could watch the game in the afternoon and then you could party all night if you want to.  But Sunday, Sunday has a whole different vibe.  you got to get up and go to work the next day.  Actually the history of Sunday turns out to be pretty interesting.  Historian Craig Harline wrote an entire book about it and says it wasn't always the day of rest.

Craig Harline:  After about 400 Sunday became a full day free from work, and therefore there began to be discussion over what should be done the rest of the day that's outside of worship. That's when Sunday began to take on this more sabbath-like character.  Christians debated what is the nature of Sunday, should it be like the jewish sabbath, should it have different rules from the jewish sabbath? But in the same spirit essentially. And that's when it really began and during the middle ages that tendancy toward the creation of what christians called the sort of christian sabbath continued.  The Puritans in the 16th and 17th century in England and in the Americas solidified that tradition and they called Sunday THE sabbath they didn't say it was merely a sort of sabbath or a figurative sabbath it was THE Sabbath true and proper it had been reinstituted by God on the new day of the week and so on. And, so therefore the religious elements of Sunday have been there a long time.


Strainchamps: So, you've done a kind of interesting thing in this book. Rather than just king of march through the history you've sort of singled out Sunday's in different historical periods and sort of done a venyet a profile of how the day might have been celebrated by some typical people.   So, let's take a look at some of those. For instance, mid-evil catholic England.  How did a typical person, how would you or I have experienced Sunday if we were living then?


Craig Harline:  Right, I noted that there I thought would be four themes.  Working, a better meal than usual, church and a lot of fun. And, the working is a little bit surprising because by the middle ages it was pretty clear that christians were not supposed to work on Sunday, it had taken on the character of a rest day just like the jewish sabbath. But, because almost everyone was a farmer,or peasant of somekind there were things that have to be done everyday of the week as farmers today know as well. So, during the summer months at least, Sunday would often include a bit of work but that would be followed by church.  We don't know exactly how many people attended church but everyone belonged to the church they were baptized into it and born into it.


Strainchamps:  What did people do for fun in mid-evil England?


Craig Harline:  Well, they played games.  Not necessarly the same games we would, there was an early form of football already by this time but there was archery and so forth.  But mostly they went to taverns and socialized.  I think that was one of the big purposes of Sunday.  That was the day you would especially see a lot of people and you could relax.


Stranchamps:  Was there much of a conflict even back then about how people used Sunday?  I mean did, did some church leaders think that people shouldn't go to the tavern and drink and people (Fleming: yes) should just stay at home and worship?


Craig Harline:  Yeah.  The tension began again after about 500 when the church began to give Sunday a series of rules. These are things you should and shouldn't do on Sunday.  And, so yes there was always a sort of tension. But, people ended up pretty much doing what they wanted to do, I think.


Stranchamps:  You know the "Little House On The Prairie" books?


Craig Harline:  Uh-hum.


Stranchamps:  I remember reading one of those and the description of a Sunday was so different than it is now. I just remember the children were supposed to sit still and they were supposed to spend the whole day reading scripture and I think (Fleming: right) somebody got whipped because they went out sledding when they weren't supposed to.  When did that kind of Sunday appear?


Craig Harline:  That's definately from the English and puritan tradition and that was an important tradition in the Americas as well.  Of course, a lot of the first settlers came to New England but settlers who came along the rest of the eastern seaboard generally did not insist on such a strick Sunday as that,so, in the Americas you had both traditions but that English Puritan tradition was very strong. And, typically the insistance on a strick Sunday comes from that tradition.


Strainchamps:  Now, there's another kind of Sunday, a whole different Sunday tradition that you focus on.  Maybe we can fast forward to 19th Century France because that's a very different sort of Sunday isn't it?


Craig Harline:  Yes, it is. And it also includes some of the elements that we've seen earlier in history or earlier in the book, that is, there's certainly opportunity for church and so on. But by now there are alot of other things going on on Sunday as well.  Not everyone has to belong to a church anymore. So, they also enjoy their day off which is Sunday.  So, the Sunday in France, which to me was the most famous Sunday ever! With the famous painting by Surrot and all the cafe scenes and the dipiction of Sunday scenes in novels and short stories.  This is the Sunday that everybody held up as the thing to love or as the thing to hate, now most people loved it but again it was the English Puritan tradition that didn't like the French model.  They regarded it as licencious and so on.  And, if you compare it to an English Sunday, in fact, there was a lot more going on in France.


Strainchamps:  What kind of Sunday was it?  What did people do?


Craig Harline:  Well, it could include church but it certainly included opportunities to go to cafe's, restaurants, restaurant was a new invention, a big invention late 19th century.  It included lots of parks that were available in France.  Pleasure trains to the ocean, if you lived in Paris for instance.  Walking down the boulevard would often offer intertainment enough because often people went out to be seen and to see other people so the famous prominade of the French Sunday.  So, there were a lot of parks scenes,  alot of cafe scenes alot of things going on outdoors.


Stranchamps:  So, Sunday was really a play day?


Craig Harline:  Well, it was but you could say that was true in the middle ages as well. But there's always this element of Holy day and Holiday.  Those have come to mean two opposite things in modern English but in the middle ages they  mean exactly the same thing.  And, it's probably not bad to think about that to think that a holy day usually includes holiday sorts of things and holiday includes holy day sorts of things. So, in other words the two things go together.


Stranchamps:  So, how do you see these two strands playing out today? In Modern day America in the Sunday that we've evolved?


Craig Harline:  Well, you can see the Puritans strains still and you can see the Continental European strain still.  The Puritan strain is still alive in certain religious denominations.  Certainly you can see that all the high activity of a Sunday.  The sporting events and so forth, that definatly comes from the Continental European traditions. And, they kind of fuse into something destinctly American. In fact, the tendancy to have a lot of sporting activities on Sunday is more American than it is either European or English.


Stranchamps:  Has writing this book changed anything about the way you approach your Sundays?


Craig Harline: Now that I'm an old guy, maybe not.  If I had been a kid, I probably would have played more.  But, as an old guy, I don't mind resting on Sunday anymore. I think it's certainly if you come from the stricter English tradition, it maybe helps you reinvision Sunday that there are more possibilities than you imagine and that the English tradition is just one alternative.


Stranchamps:  So, the subtext of your book could be, getting rid of your Sunday guilt?


Craig Harline:  I suppose it could be that or just reinvisioning it for yourself.  You know, how you want to make it a more creative Sunday.


Stranchamps:  I have to confess, Sunday is probably my least favorite day of the week and over the years, I mean, there's a particular kind of dread and sort of feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sunday afternoons especially, you know the weekend's coming to an end and you really have to start kind of thinking about work again.  I use to think that was just me and over the years I've come to realize that a lot of people have that kind of Sunday dread and it does kind of color my perception of the whole day.   Did you find that was true with a lot of people?


Craig Harline:  Well, I didn't go and do interviews or make a systematic study but that was the impression I got. And, that in fact one physcologist coined a term called "Sunday Nurosis".  I thought about that and I thought there could be at least two kinds of Sunday Nurosis.  The first kind that he meant, was the kind that dreads Sundays coming because it means an end to the routine of the week. And when routine stops, you have to stop and think about things.  You might even have to question your routine; you may have to ask the big questions.  Like, what am I doing?  what's the purpose of all this?  The routine sometimes distracts you from all the big questions of life.  So, some people don't like that, seizing of the routine.  I think the kind that you're talking about is more in the French model.  And, that is, that you like Sundays so much that you can't stand to see it go.  You're just dreading Monday coming again and when you have to go out of this kind of timeless existance that might emerge,at least briefly on Sunday.


Strainchamps:  Well, you know the doctor's tell us that most heart attacks happen Monday morning.  So evidently a lot of people feel that way.


Craig Harline:  Maybe other people feel the same way.  But, then there are people that can't wait to get back to work.  That's why I found that bumper sticker humorous, which said:  Thank God it's Monday.  Because of course before it was always, Thank God it's Friday. But this...?...thank God...they're so glad at the lack of routine of Sunday has passed.


Strainchamps:  Craig Harline wrote:  The History of Sunday from Babylonia to the Super Bowl.

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