Christmas is Over?
Not so fast…
Take a quick look at my little video rant on the topic and I’ll discuss some of the particulars below:
Okay, back to the blog rant.
Christmas is a Liturgical Season
As I alluded to in the video, “Christmas” is a Liturgical Season which takes place between Advent and Epiphany. It’s part of the calendar of Biblical readings that are scheduled in more traditional churches such as the Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran denominations as well as many others. The story begins in Advent at the beginning of December with many selections having to do with the prophecies that were cited to proclaim the coming of Jesus and to justify his identification as the promised Savior. Christmas begins on Christmas Day as a celebration of the fulfillment of those prophecies in the person of an infant in Bethlehem and a number of happenings associated with his infancy and the shepherds and the angelic annunciation and all the stuff that the religious carols record. Epiphany begins 12 days later and signifies the arrival of the Magi, aka the Wise Men or Three Kings of (the) Orient, around the time that Jesus is a toddler. Well, nobody wants to wait 2 years for Christmas to end (except, perhaps me) so they jump ahead to the interesting bits with the gold, frankincense and myrrh and the whole dust-up with Herod. This period is also designated as “Ordinary” and is chock full of random readings that wend their way to Lent about 9 weeks after the end of the 12 Days of Christmas (which is the actual 12 Days of Christmas, not the 12 more shopping days ’til Christmas sales hullabaloo we’ll discuss below). Lent, of course, recalls Jesus’ sojourn into the desert to steel himself for the trials to come and lasts for 40 days (more or less, depending on where the Sundays fall) and gives way to Holy Week and subsequently Easter. Easter is not only a day but also a Liturgical Season lasting about 7 weeks and culminates on Pentecost. That Ascension Day is included in the season of Easter should not be overlooked. It is part of the story that is being told beginning with Advent. After Ascension Day, the narrative turns necessarily to the 12 Disciples and their activities in establishing Christianity as a living legacy of their master’s teachings and purpose. The celebration of the Day of Pentecost begins another period of “ordinary” time lasting basically half of the calendar year during which more random readings (note that when I say “random”, I mean ones that are not heavily thematic to the liturgical season such as they are in Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter not that the minister whips open the Bible to a random page and says it’s the reading for today, they have a reason for the sequence of readings during “ordinary” time as well as during particularly thematic seasons) are served up as inspiration to the church-goer to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles (the Disciples got a promotion after Jesus left) and of various and sundry faithful from both the Old and New Testaments.
Okay? It is what it is. Whether or not you are Christian, whether or not you are an active church-goer, whether or not you are a member of one of the newer denominations that threw this particular baby out with the bath water, it just is what it is. They’ve sorted it all out and that’s how they roll. I am none of the above, so this is all purely academic to me but I acknowledge the fact that Christmas is Christmas for those who celebrate it that way. I acknowledge the fact that for certain denominations, Christmas is also a “season” of 12 days between Christmas Day and Epiphany with a set collection of Biblical readings explaining the importance and relevance of the manifestation of the prophesied Messiah to members of the faith. It just is. Ergo, the 12 Days of Christmas are in my opinion subject to a sort of cultural copyright. You can’t say that the 12 Days of Christmas are the 12 before anymore than you could say they were the 6 days before and 6 days after Bastille Day just because it’s good for shop sales or because you’re a greedy muttonhead who can’t tell the difference between before and after.
Christmas is a Commercial Season
Now, on to the secular bits. Anybody who is familiar with the history of Christmas knows it had a really bad reputation until the mid-19th Century. Anybody who is not familiar with this tidbit of history, I’ve linked an interesting short film on the post titled “The Christmas Holiday – Many Holiday Traditions“. It goes without saying that the early church edged out the competition by locating their celebration of the birth of Jesus on a day already associated with other popular deities of the time and also tried to take some of the edge off of Saturnalia and Yul celebrations. It also goes without saying that just because you throw a wet blanket on a popular yet vulgar event doesn’t mean the fire goes entirely out. And so it went through the Middle Ages that Christmastime was a period when the downtrodden masses blew off a little steam and showed the cracks in the armor of the faith. As with any festival of over the top drunken debauchery, it’s really hard to top yourself but it doesn’t stop people from trying. Even today, one hears of wild orgiastic company parties where people get stupid drunk and photocopy their posteriors and get totally jiggy under the mistletoe. I’ve not been to any, but the story persists. In any case, this was the predominant reputation of Christmas until the mid-19th Century. The literary works of Charles Dickens and Clement Clark Moore brought a new angle on the season. The rising Middle Class began to see Christmas in a different, more benign light than before. The Saturnalia-like celebrations were being supplanted by the family-oriented celebrations we think of today. As such, the merchants of the day saw in Santa an ally for profit.
No worries. I’m okay with that, too. The thing that gets me is hearing Jingle Bells before Thanksgiving and decorations before Halloween. C’mon, people! How ridiculous can you be? You’re diluting the magic by spreading it so thin. Oh, I’ve just put my pool into storage for the season so let’s break out the tinsel and the silk balls. Really?!? What the heck!?!
Okay, so now I’m going to sound like a crusty ol’ geezer but here goes: In my day, all the Christmas stuff started when Santa rolled into town on Black Friday with the Macy’s Parade and it pretty much ended when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. That made it something to look forward to. It made it special. It made it interesting. It created a sense of scarcity that boosted sales and made Christmastime the thing that drags merchants into profit before the books close out for the year. Does it help to extend that season to (oh, I dunno) Labor Day? Really?!? Seems to me that bustin’ out the tinsel prior to Thanksgiving dilutes both the special nature of the season from a feel-good, holiday cheer perspective as well as from a nitty-gritty, bottom line perspective. Who the heck needs Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all that if you’re selling me Christmas in July????? Have a look at this:
I don’t know about you, but the top two stories look like there are a lot of idiot procrastinators and the rest of them seem to be indicative of an economic fizzle. A stick of butter might seem like a lot to spread on a slice of bread unless the slice of bread is the size of a limousine. As always, it’s a matter of perspective.
My wife told me that some stores already have their Easter candy out on the shelves. C’mon, y’all! Get a grip! Christmas isn’t even officially over and you’re on to Easter? EASTER?!?!?!?!? Used to be that you might see the heart-shaped boxes of candy waiting for you when you went to return your Christmas gifts or purchase red and green storage totes to put your new Christmas decorations in. Used to be that you might cluck your tongue at those merchants for being so hasty with the products for a holiday that’s still a month and a half away. BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….. We’re all shopping at the speed of light these days! You can find pool supplies before Easter but not in August when you’re actually running out. You can find winter wear in July, but not in January when you’re actually freezing your tail off.
Geez, people, back the truck up! Adjust your watches and stop trying to jump the gun. Everything has its season and it would just be so fantastic if we could all reset and get things back in some semblance of order. I don’t need Easter supplies today. I don’t need pool chemicals at Easter and I don’t need tinsel for Labor Day. As the turtle in Kung Fu Panda said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present”. Let’s give ourselves and our neighbors a present and let today just be today.