Okay now’s the time of year I do my annual Christmas rant. For months now, all of us have been cringing at the sight of Christmas decorations in early Fall. I actually saw some in August. No really. We all cluck our tongues and complain about how it seems like retailers bring us Christmas earlier every year, making it the beleaguered workhorse of Holidays, starting the retail sector’s heavy lifting sooner than ever.
But now we’re in that part of the year which starts after Thanksgiving where, suddenly, it’s “Christmas” time. And the confusion starts. When people celebrate Hannuka, they don’t call it Christmas. No confusion there. The people who celebrate Kwanzaa don’t call it Christmas, so no confusion there. Even the people who celebrate the solstice get to keep their distinctions.
But my holiday — the real, original Christmas — gets clobbered every year and it sucks. It’s name confusion, pure and simple.
See, what most people celebrate is a secular economic holiday called Christmas whose season starts the day after Thanksgiving and goes until Christmas Day. Now I am no Scrooge. I am generally in favor of a holiday that is about being jolly and spreading Good Cheer and showing Goodwill Toward Men. A holiday that boosts the economy with reciprocal altruism and generosity is a very good thing. And, since it is loosely draped around some Christian and Pagan spiritual traditions, it does tend to increase foot traffic in places of worship for a spell. All good things. I do not disapprove. I intend to fully participate in the communal economic holiday myself.
But let’s not call *that* Christmas. Call it “Giftmas” or something. The original Catholic Christian Christmas Season gets clobbered by confusion. We don’t get to keep our distinction because the secular holiday poached our name.
The Christmas Season *starts* on Christmas Day and then the celebration is supposed to continue until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which occurs the Sunday after Epiphany. Hence the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
When most people are taking down their trees and lights, we’re still partying. We’re still singing carols and feasting and having parties. Or at least we should be. If you’re Catholic this should especially be true for you. Try having a Christmas party *after* Christmas Day. Wear that Christmas sweater for an extra week. Leave those lights and trees up. Keep saying “Merry Christmas.” Because it still is. Or at least it should be.
Take a look at the real original Christmas and you’ll find tons of ways to give Jesus his due and extend the Celebration past Christmas morning, once Giftmas has ended up in piles of torn wrapping paper.