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Extending Christmas

December 27, 2010

Is there anything as over as Christmas when it’s over? Colorful wrapping paper and bright ribbons are reduced to trash quickly when gifts are torn open. Fresh green trees that have graced our homes begin to drop needles. Christmas trees are discarded like fallen soldiers by the street until they are removed by sanitation workers. Decorations are packed away in the basement, the attic, or the garage until next year.

Christmas is over!

In the week following Christmas, we may become preoccupied with exchanges, housecleaning, and billpaying. No wonder the days after Christmas mark a mood swing from the season to be jolly to a time of despair.

The post-Christmas season can be a time of blessed relief. For those who enjoy gardening, the postman brings not only bills and tax forms, but also seed and plant catalogues. The days between Christmas and New Year’s give us time for reflection on the year gone by and the year ahead. Opening a new calendar can be an opportunity to plan, marking birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and other special occasions. Avid football fans have bowl games stretching nonstop into the forseeable future.

December 26th is Boxing Day. It is a time to give gifts to the people upon whose service we depend all year – those who deliver our newspaper, bag and carry our groceries, clean our offices, and service our automoblies.

In the old English tradition, the twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany.  The first day is December 26th, which is St. Stephen’s Day.   The twelfth day is January 6th, which is Epipany. The twelve days after Christmas provide an opportunity to extend the holidays by giving gifts to those we love.

When we lived in North Carolina, a young father stricken by leukemia, a member of the congregation I served, was hospitalized for several weeks just before Christmas. Because Jim’s immune system was compromised, his physician did not want him to be with his three small children. When I visited with him on Christmas Day, his disease was in remission and he was looking forward to being discharged from the hospital. “We’re going to have Christmas when I get home,” he said in anticipation.

Jim left the hospital two days later. He and his wife gave each child one present every day for the next week or so. Spreading out the gifts conserved Jim’s energy, and enabled the family to extend Christmas into the New Year. Sadly,  Jim died later that same year.

Several years ago, in early December, I spoke with Jim’s daughter, now an adult with children of her own. “I remember that Christmas, the last one with my daddy, as the best one ever. Instead of the whole thing suddenly being over, Christmas seemed to last and last.”

The twelve days after Christmas need not be a season of despair. In the afterglow of Christmas, joy and peace can go with us into the New Year.


Kirk H. Neely
© December 2010




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