It’s only four days after Christmas, but it’s time to move on.
Let’s pull down the lights, and make things look like it all never happened. New Year’s Day is at hand.
At no time during the year does our sense of anticipation and joy turn so quickly as it does on the morning of Dec. 26.
Some complain when people start the Christmas season “too soon.” I’ve been doing that since childhood. I was recruited for a boys choir in North Carolina in the fourth grade, and for six years, we started rehearsing Christmas music in September.
No matter when you begin, the crunch always hits. A national survey found that the busiest Christmas shopping period falls in the final few hours, after noontime on Dec. 24. That makes it difficult to find much good will during the days just before Christmas.
Parking is impossible to find, check-out lines are unbearably long, and the gift selection is poor. The crowds, the weather, and the unyielding deadline become burdens.
We have this image of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but the reality is often something much different than the ideal of a perfect Christmas seen in television specials and greeting cards. It’s no surprise that many Americans have decided to challenge the hectic schedule we often set for ourselves, and slow it down, spread it out and — above all — simplify celebrations so they can be enjoyed. Many families are establishing holiday traditions that aren’t so dependent on everything happening on Dec. 24 and 25.
How ironic it is that at the season when the message is the hope of God’s peace in the world — peace in our hearts, as well as among each other — that we should lose that promise in the holiday bustle we create for ourselves. The spirit of Christmas is threatened to the point that the reason for celebrating is forgotten. What was meant to be a time of peace on Earth and good will to all people, turns into a “holiday” of stress and anxiety.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Society has set Dec. 25 as Christmas Day, but it’s an arbitrary date with no historic association to the event in Bethlehem it observes. And it’s a shame that a message so important throughout the year is boxed in to one arbitrary date.
From a religious standpoint, the time period most of us celebrate as the Christmas season falls during Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Christmas Day is the beginning of the celebration, not the end of it. But our secular observance has this reversed, a point which really shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Perhaps it helps to remember that the events which form the Biblical Christmas story did not all happen in one month, or on one day, or even in one hour, as we might be led to believe during those children’s pageants at church each December.
The day families take down Christmas decorations is often a matter of convenience. People do that when they have time off work, or when the weather is warmer. Before artificial trees became common, removing a live tree after several weeks’ enjoyment was a matter of fire safety.
But decorations do not dictate the span of our Christmas observance. The trappings of the season may go into storage, but the spirit of Christmas doesn’t necessarily go with them.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.