The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions. But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.
…There is no such thing as a feast “without the gods”—whether it be a carnival or a marriage. That is not a demand, or a requirement; it does not mean that that is how things ought to be. Rather, it is meant as a simple statement of fact: however dim the recollection of the association may have become in men’s minds, a feast “without gods,” and unrelated to worship, is quite simply unknown. (56-57)
…Divine worship, of its very nature, creates a sphere of real wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want. …Thus, the act of worship creates a store of real wealth which cannot be consumed by the workaday world. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is, we repeat, true wealth; the wealth of the feast time. And only in this feast time can leisure unfold and come to fruition. (59)
…The celebration of divine worship, then, is the deepest of the springs by which leisure is fed and continues to be vital—though it must be remembered that leisure embraces everything which, without being merely useful, is an essential part of a full human existence. (60)
From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).