Anyway, whether one is religious or not, I do agree that we need to have "times set apart, meant to be kept pure of work and effort and toil and the burdens of authority," primarily because, as social creatures, we need to sustain and reinforce our committments to each other- to realize that our labors are a means and not an ends to life, that we work to sustain each other. Unfortunately, I see crass materialism being elevated to a sacred status.(The words of the inappropriately denominated "no imagination.")
In a nutshell, that was the purpose of "sabbath." A day to be kept holy not because the God of Abraham would withhold the blessings if it wasn't observed (that became the thinking after the Exile, at least in some quarters), but because it kept the day separated from toilsome labor (interesting that it was work that tainted the sabbath, not play). Because creation was meant to be enjoyed, the sabbath was kept holy from the mere effort of living. A way of reminding of the source of life, and of giving an excuse to enjoy life and creation, every seven days.
So holy days are "sabbath" days, too. Days that should be set apart, kept pure and undefiled. What is "pure" and "undefiled" I leave to you. What we can do to keep the holidays "holy," in this sense at least, is what I'm stumbling toward. And what days we keep, is another issue. Twelve days is good; and in a culture not dominated by the machine that never rests, by the lights that destroy night and disturb sleep (remind me to tell you about the opposition to the "moonlight towers" in Austin in the early 20th century), twelve days were easily set aside as "holy." As recently as the mid-20th century in parts of Europe, in fact.
But the deadline, too, is not a "dead-line" at all. That's part of the "American problem" of holidays: that they should occur in decency and good order, and not disturb our calendar otherwise, one devoted to thrift and conscientiousness and hard work. Perhaps that's why we rush our holidays. Perhaps that's why I feel rushed to finish this "series" before December 25th.
But we have twelve days to consider it; and they haven't even begun yet, have they?