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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Well, it is technically Christmas, surely? Are there not traditionally 12 days of Christmas, ending on 6th January (Epiphany)? Of course it doesn’t mean we all need a partridge in a pear tree, but even so!

(And yes, I know I’m cutting it fine leaving it until now, but better late than never…)

I thought the second part of this post- which would have been the first part but for the fact I was a. basically too lazy and b. well, Christmas day isn’t exactly the ideal time for updating one’s blog- should be dedicated to decidedly Christmas-related musings. After all, there’s plenty of the utter madness this blog is partly meant to be about, in the practice of Christmas, and plenty of other stuff worth thinking about.

Of course, this time of year is so often derided for ending up being about exactly the opposite of what it’s supposed to be. If you’re Christian, you might well bemoan the fact that modern society has secularised things, and forgotten the bit where it’s basically supposed to be about, you know, the birth of Jesus, not about jolly bearded chaps and their red-nosed reindeer, and certainly not about the basic worship of Mammon, whereby people must spend inordinate amounts on presents, extravagant and gaudy decorations, food drink and so on, the shops beginning perhaps as early as September or October, and if you don’t, the gods of the economy will punish you with low growth, business failure and job losses. And if you so much as mention the Jesus bit, the PC crowd will jump down your throat because it might upsetĀ  Muslims or atheists, who probably don’t even mind. Whether or not you are a Christian, there are other concerns, too- the materialism also, the bit where it’s supposed to be about peace, goodwill and having a good time when often it is anything but- all the stress of buying presents, preparing Christmas dinner (I am sure my mother will have words with me on that score) and falling out with the family who come round to share it (so some claim).

Now it might be worth pointing out, that maybe Christmas is based upon pagan festivals after all- like, say, the Roman Saturnalia or perhaps the birth of the sun, the Norse Yule, and various other things connected with the winter solstice. Maybe when the church became established after Roman Emperor Constantine co-opted it (creating the Catholic Church and its Eastern equivalents in their present form) these things were simply Christianised, and it’s fair to say that we don’t know if Jesus was actually born anywhere near December- some suggest mid-September, say. My Presbyterian friends don’t bother too much with it, and don’t seem lacking in their Christian faith or witness for it one bit. Another guy- evangelical Christian from America, naturally (not to do down the nation, but it seemsthey’re always from America, this sort) appeared on TV, as part of a programme on theories of what the star the wise men saw was, trying to point to an astronomical phenomenon which did appear on December 25th- so maybe it was the date after all. Either way, traditionally it has become the date which celebrates Christ’s birth, and it is a time when some folks are still inclined to go to church and do the Jesus thing more so than at most other times of the year, so it can be a worthwhile witness.

There are secular observations I can add too. Firstly, the time we bother with Christmas. As I pointed out, it is well overdone in the commercial sector, often with Christmas relate goods being sold months ion advance. Then, over the tannoys, in the media, Christmas music, TV programming &c. comes out at least by late November or the beginning of December. Works Christmas parties are several weeks before Christmas day. And then, by the time the day is done, along rolls Boxing Day… and the sales start, and as if the mad shopping frenzy which preceded Christmas (right up to the Eve) didn’t leave folks with retail fatigue, back they all go again as if nothing happened. They can’t get through the doors fast enough. And then it’s back to work, and it’s as if Christmas is already over, all we have to look forward to is the New Year, and it’s not like Christmas doesn’t last for days to come. Yet, if I recall right, our mediaeval forebears continued the festivities for days after, all the way up to Twelfth Night, and didn’t go back to work ’til the following Monday (‘Plough Monday’)*. After all, in the dark, cold, miserable time of year, we need something to cheer us up. And is this the best time to still be working? The thing it, we have it all the wrong way round. If we started Christmas on December 24th (Christmas Eve), didn’t concentrate it into one mad day of meal preparation, gluttony, drinking, falling out and Morecambe and Wise repeats, and kept going after that, into January, we wouldn’t be quite so miserable come later on, when it’s still the dead of winter and there’s nothing to look forward to. There’d be no concept of ‘Blue Monday’.

Yet sometimes it seems, perhaps Christmas is a waste of time, if it’s all about materialism and isn’t even that Christian. But, nevertheless, I’m not giving up just yet.

*Then, it was perhaps one of the few times in the year, if at all, they actually got any time off.