One of my biggest pet peeves is the popular culture's insistence that Christmas is over on December 26. I don't get it, really. Even among those who practice Christmas only in a secular way, there is such extensive anticipation and build-up to Christmas Day that I would expect the celebration to continue a bit longer. Yet once December 25 has come and gone, it seems most people are tired of the whole thing, ready to move on to New Year's parties and Valentine's Day decorating and even planning for spring break and summer vacation. Case in point is my husband's XM radio (last year's Father's Day gift), which he transferred into my van prior to a family road trip last month, and which he has yet to move back to his own car (take your time, honey!). Over the past few weeks I have been enjoying my pick of several different Christmas stations, including one entirely devoted to orchestral and choral arrangements (in other words, no "Feliz Navidad" or Doobie Brothers or even Frank Sinatra). I am accustomed to the local radio stations dispensing with their Christmas programming on December 26, but I was hoping subscription radio might hold out a bit longer. No such luck, though. As I cycled through the Christmas pre-sets today, each one had the same message: "Off air."
Ah, well. Just add this to one of the long list of ways our family is out of sync with the general public. As members of a liturgical denomination (one in which the church year follows a set order of "seasons" that reflect the birth, life & ministry, death, resurrection & ascension of Christ), we spend the largest part of December observing Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas, so that when December 25 arrives it is just the first of twelve days of Christmas that begin with the Feast of the Nativity (the birth of Jesus) and culminate in the Feast of the Epiphany (the visit of the wise men). At home, too, we continue to observe the Christmas holiday by playing Christmas music around the house, leaving the Christmas tree and other decorations up, and wishing each other "merry Christmas" each day. (Although we don't follow this practice, I know of families who spread their family gift-giving over the twelve days of Christmas instead of concentrating it all on Christmas Day).
But to tell the truth, there is an additional, more practical reason our Christmas observance continues beyond December 25: as a family in which both parents are working church musicians (one part-time, the other full-time), the weeks that lead up to and include Christmas Day can be quite draining. Whereas many people wake up on December 26 with the intention of returning to normal activities after a few days off, we wake up having just finished a few of the busiest days of the year. In our family, December 26 is a cherished lull in the storm, a true "pajama day," a day when everything finally comes to a complete and utter halt (did you notice I didn't "post" yesterday?). It is a "halt" that we try very hard to perpetuate for several more days, enjoying some rare time resting and recreating at home as a family. Thus, yesterday and today I did not set my alarm clock, resulting in my sleeping in until after 7:00 a.m. (that's late for this customarily early riser). And while most people we know have already made and eaten their Christmas cookies, we may finally get around to making some in our house tomorrow or the next day. In past years I have been known to use this time to send out Epiphany rather than Christmas greetings. And as I enjoy a break in my piano teaching and accompanying schedule and my husband's load is lightened as a result of our church's day school being out on vacation, these cherished few days will include some all too rare family game and movie time.
The challenge right now is to grant ourselves permission to enjoy the rest afforded by a slightly less demanding schedule by not filling it up with all those things on the task list that are forever waiting to be addressed. Maybe over the next week we'll tackle a few of those. But they've waited this long, and they can wait a bit longer. In the meantime, we plan on playing some of those dusty board games, listening to some of those rarely heard CD's, and taking advantage of that too-often unused Netflix subscription.
Merry Third Day of Christmas!