It’s the fashion in today’s America to be done with Christmas as soon as appropriate. Appropriateness varies between individuals and institutions. It is hardly surprising that after the season’s typical stress and hectic rush which many experience during this season, a sizeable number of people want to rid themselves of “the Holidays” sooner rather than later.
I, for one, don’t like to see Christmas go. I detest the current appetite among merchants to begin the Holiday season prior to Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the season began with Thanksgiving, and businesses reflected that trend. Now, thanks to factors mostly beyond the public’s control, the season begins as early as Halloween, and in some egregious cases, even earlier. When the season is forced upon us so early, it is not difficult to understand Christmas burn-out. However, because of the current regime, it is as if a great deal of the season’s spirit is spent much before it arrives, and this puts many into the “let’s get it over with” mode. I am not one of those folks.
My feeling is that once Christmas arrives, it should be invited to stay a while, to linger as long as possible. Looking at the season this way, I think that taking down Christmas decor on December 26, or even on January 2, is like asking an old friend to leave your house long before s/he has outworn welcome. And it should be remembered that Christmas itself has not outworn its welcome. Rather, commercialism has burdened consumers with a too-early Christmas atmosphere, which is not the fault of the holiday itself.
But why, it might be objected, would anyone keep Christmas past New Year’s day? The answer is not strange or difficult to understand:
Christmas Day is only Day One in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas does not end until Midnight of the Twelfth Day after December 25, the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. This feast celebrates the “epiphany”, or “showing forth” of the Christ-child to the Magi. To shut down Christmas before the day that marks the Magi’s visit is simple lunacy, especially in view of the iconic cultural popularity and importance of “the Three Wise Men” for the holiday.
Not only that. For nostalgic and sentimental people like me who hate to see Christmas leave, a full twelve days of Christmas gives us time to enjoy a longer season than is commonly enjoyed, and it permits us to say our goodbyes to the season gently, with appropriate ritual: the tradition is to relish your Christmas right up until very late on the evening 0f January 6, while you indulge in a final indulgence in seasonal music, movies and treats. Then, after – or even during – this final acknowledgement of the season, you take down the Christmas decor and store it away until next Christmas. That way, Christmas lovers can protract the season as they please, and bid it a fond farewell without major heart-wrenching sensation.
I say, Give me my full Christmas season, from Advent through Christ’s birth on Christmas day, to his Epiphany on January 6. There is no good reason for Christmas lovers to cheat themselves of the full season, despite cultural pressures to do so.