Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Moving the holidays


If you’re Jewish, let’s face it, you’ve got it a tad easier. If you don’t take care of someone tonight, you’ve got five more nights in which to make it up to a loved one or whoever else is on your gift list.

Christmas and Hanukah suffer from Thanksgiving’s proximity. They fall too close to Turkey Day and, as a result, they’re the leading causes of stress, anxiety and depression in December.

Thanksgiving is the best holiday. You eat, drink and make merry – all without having to worry about buying someone a gift that requires an emotional touch point.

If your hosts hate the wine or the center piece you offered, that’s nothing. These gifts didn’t break your checking account and, emotionally speaking, they’re inconsequential.

But Christmas and Hanukah, they’re different stories. They demand your best gift giving efforts. Heaven forbid you should fail to buy that special someone anything other than that very gift that perfectly suits them.

At our house, every Christmas presents a gift giving conundrum. What to buy for whom? Our kids are easy; the kids of relatives and friends are somewhat easy; friends we buy for are easy. Our mothers are easy. Our fathers, men who have every toy they ever wanted, present difficulties. We’re never sure what to do for them.

In addition, this year’s short time frame between Christmas and Thanksgiving has presented numerous scheduling difficulties. A number of gifts will be late. I explained this to a dear friend who reminded me, because she’s always been wise beyond her years, that Christmas is a season, not a day. While a wonderful idea that works in some circles, it doesn’t cut it with our culture. Christmas remains a day!

So because these holidays demand our best efforts, we should reschedule them to a month that’s truly awful, January. Christmas and Hanukah in January would make the month so much more palatable. And once the celebrations are over, it’ll be nearly February, when spring’s just around the corner.

Is there a religious problem here? Not really.

The history of Christianity is a history of competition. One can’t just start up a new religion without figuring out ways to compete and, at times, collude with society’s domineering culture.

No one really knows when Jesus was born; stories suggest his birth was either in the summer or fall but it remains a mystery. The only thing that appears to be certain is His death, at around Passover, or sometime in either March or April.

The leading reason that Jesus’ birth is celebrated in December is because that’s when an event was celebrated during the days of the Roman Empire, Winter Solstice. In fact, green is a Christmas color because the Romans decorated with it to celebrate the pending arrival of spring.

Scholarly reports suggest that early Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth in December for two reasons: 1) so they would have something to celebrate while everyone else was marking the arrival of longer days; 2) to offer up a completely different celebration or, in other words, to compete against Winter Solstice.

So, religiously speaking, there’s nothing stopping us from moving Christmas to January 25th. If anything, it’ll give retailers, those gauges of economic health, double the time to score sales as opposed to the usual four to five weeks after Thanksgiving.

Since Hanukah is now competing with Christmas or vice-versa – take your pick – it should go along with this modest proposal and move to January as well. Religiously speaking, Hanukah can’t move as easily as Christmas can but, in the name of competition, I say, make the move. It’s stronger closer to Christmas than it is farther away.

Everybody wins here: People have more time to shop. Department stores, boutiques and others selling gifts have a longer lead time in which to make their sales figures and consumers breathe a sigh of relief.

If we implement this plan, we’ll still have New Year’s as usual. Even that song, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” while suffering from chronology problems, still works. Let’s face it, you don’t want to sing, “We wish you a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas.” Although depending on where you are on the sobriety chart on December 31st, maybe you do.

What about the clergy? Will they like this idea? I’m not sure but their objections can be met this way: The holidays’ meanings are more important to celebrate than the exact days on which the events actually happened.

Who’s with me?


Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Thomson Gale, 2005

Encyclopedia of religious rites, rituals and festivals. Frank A. Salamone, editor. New York: Routledge, 2004

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