Friday, December 31, 2004

And so this is still Xmas....

The secular calendar says the new year starts tomorrow.

The liturgical calendar says it started on the First Sunday of Advent.

In the not so recent past, in still rural parts of Europe (Ireland, specifically, and well within the reach of the first half of the last century), "Christmas" was still a season that stretched from December 25th to January 6th. As this was a fairly quiet time for agricultural regions (but livestock, like children, require attention 24/7; they don't give you time off for a vacation away), it was a time easily devoted to holiday (i.e., "set apart") pursuits, and the "12 Days of Christmas" could really mean something.

They could, again.

Christmas is a holy observance, for the faithful. For the world, it should at least be a time of rest, a time for humanity, not the machine. Holidays have changed since the Industrial Revolution. Like animals, machines need constant attention. But they make constant demands: they never get sick, but they never stop, either. We've moved beyond treating children as commodities (before child labor laws, children commonly worked the "graveyard shift" in factories). We can move beyond treating ourselves as commodities, too. It wasn't so long ago we wiped out the season of Christmas from the secular calendar. It wouldn't take much to restore it.

But it will have to happen one individual, one family, at a time.

So consider the alternatives. Consider a Christmas Day that is spent on leisure and family, not wrappings and football and too much food. This year, for example, we cooked our "Xmas" turkey a few days ago, because we were elsewhere on Christmas Day, enjoying someone else's feast. We have cookies and breads and cakes and pies to enjoy through Twelfth Night. And it doesn't have to end on January 1. It can continue, in your hearts and lives if not in your work-a-day world.

In fact, consider the rightness of it. Time was Christmas began on Christmas Eve, and ended on Twelfth Night. Parties, at either end, and pleasure and peace and relaxation and fellowship in between. And what is more valuable than that?

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