Twas the Day After Christmas

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

‘Twas the Day after Christmas, and all through the land, some people were happy,‘cause Christmas was bland.

I’m certainly not the first one to pen a piece called “Twas the Day after Christmas.” Google the words and you’ll find lots of variations on the theme. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the phrase captures a certain ambivalence in our culture about the coming and going of Christmas.

I suspect that the majority of folks would agree that it’s unfortunate that we spend months and months getting ready for Christmas, starting even before Halloween, and then discard it so quickly when it’s over. Don’t we realize that Christmas is more than a day, that it’s a season? When did the 12 Days of Christmas become nothing more than a cute little Christmas sing-a-long?

Seems to me that given the importance of the day, and the extensive preparations that go into it, we should enjoy Christmas for a while – certainly through New Year’s Day; or even better till the Epiphany; or best of all until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord when the Church ends its liturgical observance of Christ’s Birth.

On the day after Christmas each year I find myself irritated that all the Christmas music has suddenly disappeared from the radio, as if stolen away by some vindictive little Grinch. And there’s nothing sadder than to find Christmas trees abandoned at the curb, their magic gone, even before we can toast the New Year.

One of the depressing aspects of the passing of Christmas and the New Year for me is what comes immediately afterwards – and that is nothing, at least nothing uplifting and exciting! After the holidays we have to endure the tunnel months, January and February, and the dark, dreary, cold and snowy days of winter (El Nino notwithstanding) with little to cheer us up. Except, perhaps the Super Bowl, and even that’s irritating if the Patriots are in it. Again. And win. Again.

And this year, for political junkies, at least we’ll have some intrigue with the early primaries in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Oh the drama – will the Donald survive and prosper, his rhetoric galvanizing a large chunk of the angry American electorate, or will he finally implode under the weight of his outrageous words and inflated ego? Will Hillary continue her inexorable march to the White House or will the copious baggage of the past and present catch up with her?

Yes, the passing of Christmas is a sad event, especially for those of us who look forward to its celebration and value its meaning. I think of a Christmas letter I received from a friend who wrote: “What a wonderful time of the year this is! It is a rare person who doesn’t look forward to Christmas or find that the heart is touched by this holy time.”

Well, not to contradict my Christmas letter-writer, but I suspect that the folks who don’t like Christmas are more than a few. Some find the season depressing, a source of sadness and melancholy, especially if they’re dealing with a personal problem or recent loss of a loved one. Some find that the excessive commercialism and materialism of Christmas have robbed it of its spiritual splendor and childhood charm. Some don’t like the interruptions in routine caused by the season and can’t wait to return to a more normal schedule.

Indeed, as my little rhyme at the beginning suggests, there are some who love the day after Christmas precisely because it marks the beginning of the end of the holiday season.

All the more reason for us to focus on the authentic virtues and values of Christmas. Pope Francis explains it this way: “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.”

Do we, in fact, have the ability to understand and receive the gift of Christmas? All too often, that’s the challenge for us: to rise above the superficial and vacuous presentation of Christmas and to embrace the wonderful gift God has given us!

Christmas is about Emmanuel – the God who is always with us, in good times and in bad. Christmas speaks of peace and joy, values we should promote every day of the year. Christmas gives a “thrill of hope” to our weary world, a world racked by violence, division, suffering and pain. Christmas is God’s vote of confidence in our human family; that he thinks enough of us to send his only-begotten Son to become one of us.

There’s a lesson to be had in “The Christmas Carol” of Charles Dickens. After Ebenezer Scrooge has had his moment of conversion, changing from a Christmas-hater to a Christmas-lover, the narrator of the tale says of Scrooge: “He had no further intercourse with Spirits. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, every one!”

Dear readers, I hope that in the spirit of Scrooge you will keep Christmas well; that you will have a truly joyful and peaceful Christmas Season, and a New Year filled with God’s abundant blessings!