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The Halving Holiday


This article is featured in Bitcoin Magazine’s “The Halving Issue”. Click here to get your Annual Bitcoin Magazine Subscription.

Setting aside certain days for celebration, commemoration or remembrance is a nearly universal practice among humans. While different cultures and religions have their own unique customs and traditions, the entire human race seems to share an underlying propensity to recognize certain occasions as distinct from otherwise ordinary days.

Finally, something we can all agree on! While the word “holiday” or Holy Day, literally means a day that is set apart, there are also examples of special occasions which extend beyond a 24 hour period such as Hanukkah, Ramadan or even the 12 days of Christmas. After only 13 years since its inception, the nascent Bitcoin community has also begun observing its own special occasions: Jan 3rd, October 31st and Bitcoin Pizza Day, to name a few.

Then, about every 4 years, there’s the big one.

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Unlike Birthdays, Kwanza or Presidents’ Day, I would argue there are aspects of Bitcoin’s Halving which make it somewhat extraordinary compared to our standard understanding of holidays and their accompanying traditions. Perhaps in ways that even Bitcoin’s most ardent fanatics have yet to fully appreciate. It’s not that the halving is more important than Christmas or more memorable than a bar mitzvah. But the implications and distinct properties which take place every 240,000 blocks, are simply unlike any other “holiday” that humans are accustomed to observing.

We are approaching Bitcoin’s 4th ever Halving at block height 840,000 which marks the beginning of a new epoch and a reduction of the block reward from 6.25 BTC to 3.125 BTC. But we don’t know exactly what day or time it will take place. You can’t exactly mark the occasion on your calendar because it is dependent on block time not clock time. It is a quadrennial occasion, occurring every 4 years, but it also has a clearly demarcated finale: there will only ever be 32 halvings. Overall, its predictability is somewhat of a paradox. We know for sure the block height, reward change and total number of halvings while having no idea the time it will occur, the impact on bitcoin’s valuation or the critical metric of subsequent network hashrate. Inevitable arguments and assertions about whether or not “the halving is priced in” are as futile as other classic bitcoin debates such as stainless steel vs cast iron, bitcoin vs Bitcoin or my personal favorite: sats vs bits.

New Year’s Eve might be the closest example we have in terms of sharing similar holiday type dynamics with the Halving. The anticipation of a brand new year or a brand new epoch. The tendency to pause and reflect on the previous year or the previous epoch. The mystery of what a fresh 12 months will bring or the mystery of what the next epoch has in store. But New Year’s Eve happens every December 31st at midnight. Nothing is fundamentally different about the world on January 1st and as far as we can tell, humans will continue to repeat this routine indefinitely into the future. Again, making these distinctions isn’t meant to suggest one is “better than the other” but more to highlight the ways in which The Halving is particularly unique as an emergent cultural phenomenon.

We can acknowledge that the implications of The Halving currently only impact a small subset of the world’s population. Those who hold, transact with or mine bitcoin are really the only ones even paying attention. But it’s fun to consider how the commemoration of The Halving might evolve and expand as worldwide adoption of this pristine asset continues to accelerate. Uncertainty and anticipation of the occasion aside, the underlying celebratory aspect of each halving points to one of Bitcoin’s most important properties which is its perfectly knowable and universally auditable scarcity. There can only ever be 32 total halvings because there will only ever be 21 million bitcoin. As the block reward is cut in half, the number of bitcoin mined each epoch, is also cut in half. This means that each halving can essentially be understood as a mini-celebration leading up to the eventual cessation of halvings altogether. The 32nd and final halving is of course when the final few sats will finally be mined, circa 2140. If bitcoin continues on its current trajectory and one day becomes the default currency for humans everywhere, it’s not far off to imagine that the actual holiday which might be celebrated by future generations could become whatever fateful day it happens to be when block 6,720,000 is mined and the final sats enter into the total supply. I get fomo just thinking about it.

Even if I live to be 100 years old, that means I will only be around to see bitcoin reach its 18th or 19th epoch. The block reward will be about 10,000 sats and only 20 full coins will be mined by the entire network for the duration of the epoch. Compared to today’s numbers, these facts are simply mind boggling. Rather than lament missing out on the grand finale of bitcoin’s 32nd and final halving, I want to attempt to properly commemorate the handful of halvings I will have the opportunity to experience, starting with the upcoming 4th halving, estimated to take place sometime in April of 2024. Since this is still a new tradition, we’ve yet to establish any sense of cohesion around how to best ring in each epoch. Some high time preference miners might even argue that it’s more a day of mourning than a cause for excitement. Because there is no central authority in Bitcoin, there will likely be numerous manifestations when it comes to how various pockets of the bitcoin community will mark the occasion. There’s probably no “wrong” way or even a necessity or expectation for a uniform way to celebrate the halving. But there might be value in exploring some possible ways to make the milestone a little more memorable by borrowing insights from other holidays.

If we consider the primary ways in which humans have historically marked special occasions we are able to draw some inspiration when it comes to considering ways to approach the upcoming halving and future halvings that will occur in our lifetimes. I would point to 3 elements in particular that I’m interested in exploring further:

  1. Reflection
  2. Ritual
  3. Renewal

Reflection: 4 years or 210,000 blocks feels like a long ass time in bitcoin years. This feeling is likely more pronounced in our present day because we are still in the early stages of bitcoin’s existence. Either way, it seems like taking time to reflect on the previous epoch as each halving approaches, could serve us well. A lot has happened since block height 630,000 and taking a moment to pause and consider how far we’ve come, might offer a healthy practice and foster deeper collaboration among those of us working to bring about a universal bitcoin standard. This past epoch we saw, among other highlights: El Salvador adopt bitcoin as legal tender, Microstrategy, Tesla and SpaceX add bitcoin to their corporate treasuries, professional athletes demand their multi-million dollar contracts be paid in bitcoin, USD price going as low as $3k and as high as $69,420 and even politicians adopting strategic talking points in an effort to court bitcoiners. We rallied around Hodlnaut and we collectively changed our profile pictures to include laser eyes. We’ve seen bitcoin super bowl ads and the emergence of spot bitcoin ETFs. We’ve made significant progress in a short period of time and reflecting on these moments can allow us to strengthen our resolve to continue fighting alongside fellow bitcoiners, yes, even the ones who enjoy an occasional salad.

Ritual: since we don’t know the exact date or time the halving block will be mined, it can be difficult to plan and execute a party or celebration to commemorate the halving. But few subsets of the population are as creative as bitcoiners when it comes to solving problems and this logistical hurdle is nothing compared to the battles we’ve fought and the bears we’ve slain. If we really want to pull off a party that has a moving target for the invitation’s “when” line, we will find a way. Perhaps the key to creating meaningful rituals is to ensure that we’re among fellow bitcoiners at the turn of the halving. By intentionally seeking out a shared celebration, which can be repeated for each halving, we might receive similar benefits found in other holiday traditions such as creating memorable moments, deepening friendships and building community. This seems especially important for younger or newer bitcoiners who are still wrapping their heads around what is even taking place at the halving. But even the OGs might find value and inspiration in experiencing the tangible growth and momentum from epoch to epoch simply by being surrounded by other bitcoiners as the momentous block is mined.

Renewal: with each new halving comes new opportunity. It’s impossible to predict what the next epoch will bring or what new milestones we’ll achieve. All we can control is our own attitude, posture and commitment to this crazy idea we’ve all bought into and continue to show up for. Bitcoiners have the audacity to believe that a better world is possible. Many of us are here because we’ve rejected the lie that we must accept the prevailing norms of our corrupt monetary system. We envision an optimistic future which allows people to preserve the wealth that they’ve rightfully earned and transact with their peers without requiring permission from tyrannical authorities. It can be easy for us to drift away from this vision, especially as the harsh reality of intense bear markets takes its toll or the latest drama spirals on bitcoin twitter. But with each epoch we have a chance to hit reset on our mindset and return to the original reason for why we’re here to begin with, why we’ve decided to accept the ridicule of friends and family and why we’re more committed to seeing this through than we were when we first started. The practice of renewal offers a fresh sense of hope and reminds us that we are not fighting with each other, but with those who attempt to stand in the way of the sovereignty we are ultimately pursuing.

By combining these 3 habits and finding ways to implement them into our approach to each halving, I believe we can rediscover common ground, limit petty infighting and accelerate progress towards our shared objective of defeating fiat currency and its toxic societal byproducts.

The Halving is a unique occasion and a worthy holy day. We frankly don’t have to do anything at all and we will still receive the hard coded benefits of predictable supply and knowable scarcity. But for bitcoiners to truly maximize the potential of each halving, the people behind the protocol must intentionally rise to the occasion of developing rich traditions to effectively commemorate these unique and scarce milestones. 

This article is featured in Bitcoin Magazine’s “The Halving Issue”. Click here to get your Annual Bitcoin Magazine Subscription.


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