If you ask me, the holidays come at the wrong time of year. And we can’t even describe that time correctly.
When are “the holidays?” For many, this phrase refers to Christmas and New Year’s Day. For me, it’s the time from the moment I wake up on Thanksgiving Day, to whatever moment I set foot in the office for the first time in January. For others, it includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Masopust (okay, I admit I had to look that one up), and other dates important to their customs.
Whatever you celebrate, my point comes back to my rhetorical question above – when is it? To refer to all of them, we sometimes use the phrase “winter holidays.” But think about it – winter doesn’t even start until some of those holidays are past. Thanksgiving is clearly an autumn holiday. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev, which is a moving target. A few years back, it was the same date as Thanksgiving. This year, it’s Christmas. So some years it starts in winter. Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas, which itself is barely a winter holiday.
Why do we associate Christmas with winter? It happens less than a week into that season, yet we associate it with snow. By “we,” I mean the country as a whole. I know Christmas is celebrated in other countries, but I daresay the US is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the things that make up Christmas culture. Certainly, “White Christmas” was written here. If you want to get even more local, how likely is a white Christmas in the Triangle? According to the State Climate Office, it’s happened four out of the last 123 years – pretty long odds.
Even the carols lie to us. Ever hear “The Snow Lay on the Ground?” It’s a fun song, but I guarantee you, no snow lay on the ground in Bethlehem that night. Then there’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which is about as chronologically incorrect as you can get. Since when is December 25th midwinter? It’s four days in, out of 91. You know what common holiday is actually closest to “midwinter?” Groundhog Day. That sorta changes the context of the carol a bit, doesn’t it?
Regardless of where the holidays happen in winter, I still argue it’s a bad time for them. These are supposed to be times of joy and renewal. I’d argue for putting them at the start of spring, if not for the pollen. Having them any time in winter means we have our fun indoors, but if we look outside, everything is dead. I’m admittedly a winter person; I find the weather invigorating, but it’s kind of a bummer to see brown death everywhere when I’m supposed to be celebrating a promise of salvation.
Or maybe the holidays are just in the wrong order. I guess I’d be okay with the declining weather if I didn’t also know I had nothing but New Year’s Day to look forward to after Christmas ends. To me, there’s nothing worse than going to bed the night of December 25th – except maybe waking up the morning of January 1st.
Everything just feels so somber on New Year’s Day. I know it’s supposed to be about new beginnings, but does anyone really see it that way? I doubt it; otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many people marking its coming by getting blind, stinking drunk the night before. If we’re being honest, we’re all dreading it – the resolutions, the taking down of the decorations, the desolate weather ahead, and all the rest of it. Why else does January feel like such an interminably long month? We might pretend to be all about the fresh outlook, but let’s face it – for most of us, it takes longer to break the habit of writing the previous year on dated documents than it does to break our resolutions. Even Bono knows this, as he wrote the diametrically opposed lyrics “I will begin again” and “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day” in the same song about that dreaded day.
If New Year’s Day were maybe six months later, it wouldn’t be that way. We should switch it with Memorial Day, which we celebrate inappropriately, anyway. We’re supposed to be somber on Memorial Day; what better time than during the post-holiday letdown? Then, with New Year’s Day at the end of May, we wouldn’t feel guilty about having a cookout when we know we have more serious responsibilities for the day. And think of what there would be to look forward to after New Year’s Day – swimming pools opening, boating expeditions, beach trips, and vacations from work and school!
This would eliminate one other bummer from New Year’s Day – the goodbyes. Where it sits now, New Year’s Day is always a time for farewells – to visitors, to getting gifts, to all the great food of the holidays, and to the comfortable bad habits we swear we’re really going to kick for more than a week this time. That would change if we celebrated it at the end of May. Other than teachers, who says goodbye just as summer is coming on? We really should press this issue with our newly elected leaders this year – I’m with myrth, so let’s make the holidays fete again.
But there is one goodbye I can’t avoid this New Year’s Day, and that’s to this column. As well as to you, faithful reader – if such a person exists. Only two people have copped to being regular readers of Bain’s Beat in the past, and one of them is the mother of the publishing company’s owner. But I appreciated the feedback, so thank you, Ronny’s mom and thank you, stranger at the writers’ conference! If you’re still reading it, please know your comments meant the world to me. But it’s time for the Beat to end. I’ve enjoyed writing it over the past eight and a half years – that’s about 50 topics I’ve scratched my head to come up with, and 50 random neurons that eventually fired in my brain a day or two before deadline. I’m grateful to Ronny and all of the editors who’ve given me the leeway to act on those neurons, and tolerated my ramblings. I only hope they – and all of you – have enjoyed them as much as I have. Happy New Year!