Thursday, December 16, 2004

"I'm pretty tired of Xmas, myself."--Hecate

Question: when is "Christmas"? (a) December 25th; (b) the Friday after Thanksgiving until noon or so, December 25th (c) the time between December 25th and January 6th.

One of the advantages of the liturgical calendar, especially when it crosses over the secular calendar (at least three major holidays in America are based on Christian observances*), is that the liturgical calendar offers a sharp and clear alternative to the secular calendar.

At least when the church upholds it.

When is "Christmas"? Most people will say "December 25th," but they'll follow up with "But, it starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and runs all through December." Why? Because that's when the shopping starts. And early in December, the parties start. Which is usually just the time when school is getting busier; and business is trying to do all it can before year's end (when I was a trial lawyer, December was frantic until the 25th.). And all of it rushing up against the brick wall of Christmas Eve.

Christmas is, after all, the only holiday that we observe beginning on its eve. But Christmas Eve is the deadline. If it isn't done by then, it isn't done "by Christmas." Because, in good American efficient fashion, a holiday just gets one day in our observance, and then it's back to regular life. "Thank goodness," in the minds of most Americans; especially at the end of the monthlong mad-dash marathon we label "Christmas."

Was it always this way? No. Does it have to be this way? No. In short, follow-up posts, I'll lay out both my understanding of what Christmas is; some of how it got this way; and some suggestions for how to respond to it; or live with it; or just ignore it; whichever is your preference.

*The third is Hallowe'en, or All Hallow's Even, the night before All Saint's Day.

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