Monday, December 17, 2007

Is this the reason for the season?

[The following is a first in a series of reprints in anticipation of the Christmas season. This entry originally appeared at mwbh in December of 2005.]

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I get more sick of it every year. Maybe it's because they start on me a little earlier than before. Maybe it's because I bought a house this year, and I think Santa's treating me just fine as it is.

By "they," I mean the marketing/retailing apparatus in the USA (one that is perhaps duplicated elsewhere). Now, as I understand it, roughly one-fourth of a large-scale retailer's annual sales is made during the period beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and ending the day before Christmas. So they're off to the races not a moment too soon. And like lemmings over a cliff, we'll follow them. I'll get my fill of all the fun I'm supposed to have, all the magic and the wonder, even as the Halloween decorations are marked down at the local drug store.

Then, as if that were not enough, I have to listen to someone's favorite pop or country singers succeed in butchering our all-time favorite "traditional" hymns.

Meanwhile, in our "countercultural" Catholic press, there is the obligatory reminder that the four weeks preceding Christmas is not Christmas, it is Advent. And they're right; we should hold off just a bit and devote ourselves more to preparation than to celebration. But do they spend as much time reminding us that there are twelve days of Christmas, as opposed to only one?

I doubt it.

We are told to go to daily Mass, go to confession, give something up as if it were Lent (which is not out of order, as Advent is a time of penitence, if on a different order than that of Lent). But I have yet to hear a suggestion, for example, that instead of giving all our presents out on one day, we extend the gift-giving on through New Year's Day, and into Twelfth Night. Of course, on that last point, it would help if the Church actually insisted we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, rather than go along with the "nearest-Sunday" approach that is currently popular with some national conferences of bishops.

But, now that they're all hiding behind their lawyers for one damn fool reason or another, I submit we can take some initiative out in the pews. So, here's my suggestion. Are you ready?

Make Christmas last for twelve days. Literally.

If you have to give up sweets during Advent, then make merry all the live long day into the first week of the year. Hold back on the Christmas CD's in your collection until Christmas Eve, then keep the party going after the last ball drops on New Year's Day. Take a few days off; nothing important is getting done at the office anyway.* Go down to the southwestern portion of Louisiana, where in smaller cities and little hamlets, the party doesn't stop from Christmas till New Year's Day. (I'm tellin' ya, them Creole people, they know how to party. Yeah, you right!)

But most important, if you do nothing else, give the kiddies only one present a day, for twelve days!!! If you're not careful, they might get the idea that there is more to "Christ's Mass" than what they see in the shopping malls.

Besides, those after-Christmas specials are going to come in real handy, if little Johnny and Suzy are going to be kept in suspense for that long, eh?

And while you're at it, you can always save the best for last.

* Unless you're an exec with one of those companies that have you burning the midnight oil for the year-end report. Or, worse, unless you work for one of those big-@$$ retailers. In which case, I'm letting you off easy. For now.

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