Where I am the Third Day of Christmas is just finishing with the news that Grinch Trump has ended his own brief War on Christmas and is signing the Covid-19 relief bill, thereby reinstating unemployment benefits for 14 million people although they'll miss a week of payments, as well as preventing millions more from being evicted from their rental housing units, along with the Omnibus spending bill so the government will not shut down after tomorrow. There has been less noise this year about the War on Christmas by the usual gang of right wing media types who like to whine about merchants and others saying "Happy Holidays!" rather than "Merry Christmas!" during the runup to Christmas, probably because so many of them have been caught up in whining about Biden supposedly stealing the election from Trump. But this somehow draws my attention to another group entirely who have been at warring on Christmas for a long time.
So according to most of the major Christian denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, and the Episcopalians, and Lutherans, and others of that ilk, the official proper Christmas season actually is the Twelve Days of Christmas, the first of which was Christmas Day itself, with the twelfth day of Christmas being Jan. 6, the Epiphany, the day supposed the Magi (Wise Men) visited the Baby Jesus. But for many they are not even willing to wait until New Year's day, the official seventh day, to bring it to an end. There I was on Facebook yesterday, the second day, also known as Boxing Day in UK and some other places, and an FB friend posted about being "glad it is over," with a commenter on that thread getting even more worked up and declaring to have "taken down out tree and put away all the decorations, I could hardly wait for it to end!" Yikes! Along these lines for some years now around here there is a rock/pop radio station that begins playing cheesy commercial "Christmas" music like "Frosty the Snowman" all the time starting almost immediately after Halloween, but reverts immediately to its usual fare starting December 26, the Second Day of Christmas. Sheesh!
Yes, it looks like that old bugaboo, the commercialization of Christmas and those pushing it have been the real Warriors on Christmas, shutting down the Christmas season the minute after it truly officially starts. They have been at pushing it earlier and earlier into the year, so of course gobs of people are totally sick of it by the time Dec. 25 comes around and are ready to toss it all out the following day. Hooray! Nor more Christmas! For a long time there were no commercials before Thanksgiving, or at least so it seemed when I was young, although the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade had long been the unofficial beginning of the commercial Christmas season with it ending with the arrival of Santa Claus to be followed the following day by the Black Friday of Christmas shopping. Indeed, that parade and Macy's and other stores in New York played a major role, along with the Coca Cola company in the early 20th century, in creating that modern image of Santa Claus, out of the image in the Clement Moore "Night Before Christmas" from the 1820s, which in turn drew on some versions of the Dutch Sint Niklaas who was celebrated by New York Dutch. All this was crucially at the heart of this vast commercialization that overcame the old Puritan resistance to any celebrating of Christmas.
But somewhere in the last several decades that Thanksgiving boundary was broken through. The Christmas ads, and then the cheesy movies and music, all began earlier in November and proceeded to creep ever earlier, egged on by radio stations like the one near me that gets it going the minute Halloween has passed. And in more recent years even the Halloween barrier seemed to begin to get broken, with ads appearing here and there even in late October. No wonder so many have gotten so sick of it by the ostensible "First Day of Christmas" they are ready to toss their trees and purge their homes of any shred of decorations still lurking about.
Some have objected to all this. One curiously has been the Jewish comedian, who came up with calling Dec. 23 "Festivus" to recognize this commercialized version of the holiday. But not only has this not really caught on, but some have even accused him of engaging in "the War on Christmas" with his suggestion. A quite religious colleague of mine who was a journalist once upon a time wrote a column that appeared in the Wall Street Journal of all places some decades ago in which he proposed that, like Seinfeld, we create an alternative celebration, which he said should be called "Excessmass," to be when the commercialized version of the holiday could be celebrated, so as to leave the good religious Christians like himself to have their proper holiday left alone. That proposal has gotten even less far than the "Festivus" one by Seinfeld.
S o there we have it, folks. The warriors on Christmas have been its commercializers, lot these many years. Have a happy what is left of the Christmas season!
Long Addenduem, next evening:
In may family when I was a kid, raised Presbyterian with a quite religious mother and a much less so father, we did not start celebrating Christmas until Dec. 1, the beginning of Advent, and did keep it up through Jan. 6. Did not watch the Macy's parade on TV or otherwise recognize Black Friday or any of the rest of it prior to Dec. 1.
So I shall note how widely varying this is across countries. In Russia Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7 by adherents of the dominant religion, Russian Orthodoxy, although areas in the western part of the former USSR were dominated either by Catholics or Lutherans and thus celebrated it on Dec. 25. As it was under Communist Party rule, public celebrations of Christmas itself were largely suppressed, although during most times were allowed to some degree to happen in the churches with services.
However, another much celebrated holiday had been celebrated since the time of Peter the Great that took on many aspects of Christmas we see in the West, trees, lights, and gift giving within families, as well as celebratory eating and drinking, with gifts being given by a Santa Claus-like figure known as Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz) who is accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden. They are derived from pre-Christian pagan figures. Anyway, this holiday is New Year's Eve (Snovem Godem), which is a much bigger deal than either Dec. 25 or Jan. 6. It should be noted that Grandfather Frost is kept clearly distinct from Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of Russia. In icons he is usually portrayed as beardless and with a long face, which fits his traditional appearance as thin and kind of grim actually, not a jolly old elf at all.
Then we have Catholic Mediterranean nations, with me having observed this period in particular in more than one year in Florence, Italy. In this part of the world Christmas celebrations make a big deal about Mary and her role in it all. So in Florence public Christmas decorations, especially lights, do not go up until Dec. 8, Mary's birthday. Most of those decorations come down after Jan. 6, but certain ones remain longer, most especially Nativity creches, which remain in churches until Feb. 2, yes Groundhog Day in the US. But in the Roman Catholic Church this is Candlemas, coinciding with a pagan Celtid holiday, but known ad Candlemas and also marking 40 days after the birth of Jesus, when supposedly Mary entered the Temple to be purified, making it also the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. So there, for all those who want to get over Christmas on Dec. 26, take that!