12 full days, please
Today-- December 26-- is the day when you see the definitive break between two cultures: one guided by Christianity, the other by consumerism.
Up until Christmas Day, the shopping malls and the TV networks lay their claims to the Christmas spirit, and if you ignore some tasteless excesses you can play along with them. But today all the sales displays start coming down, all the "Christmas specials" cease, and the ad men are writing all new material. If the malls are crowded, it's because so many people are exchanging unwanted gifts; not much "Christmas spirit" there!
But those of us who are celebrating the Incarnation know that the occasion is far too momentous, far too joyous, to be celebrated adequately in a single day. When we speak of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," we're not just mentioning the obscure title of a seasonal song; we're invoking an old Christian heritage. We'll be celebrating right through January 6: the Epiphany, or "Little Christmas"-- which is, remember, traditionally the time for an exchange of gifts.
Practical tip #1: If you want to beat the commercializers at their own game, put little homemade gifts in the stockings and under the trees on Christmas Eve, and then give the "big" presents on Little Christmas-- taking advantage of the "post-Christmas" sales.
Practical tip #2: Between now and January 6, find a few occasions to wish a hearty "Merry Christmas" to friends and neighbors who are believing Christians, but might be swayed by the commercials. If they express puzzlement, explain that we're still celebrating, and they should join us. Everybody loves a party.
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