Today is the last day of Christmas – otherwise known as Epiphany. You know, when the three kings (or magi) showed up from the East bearing gifts that were totally inappropriate for a newborn. Did you get your loved one a dozen drummers? If not, you might want to tell them that you pre-ordered Jim Hines’ new book The Stepsister Schemethat just came out today, so you thought of them… but the book just came out today. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen of Jim’s (which makes me wonder if he’s hiding something), so I can heartily recommend this new series. (That and he read a bit from it at GenCon and it was very good.)
Which also brings us to the end of the War on Christmas. It bothers me that the supposedly religious zealots always confuse Advent and the Christmas Season itself, but hey, I have another chance to give my wife something. (Um…honey, I pre-ordered a book…)
But I think this convenient forgetting that Christmas is a season (of twelve days) instead of a single day of celebration really illustrates how much the secular aspects of Christmas have played into its modern popularity. After the gifts are given, trees start coming down, decorations are put away, and we all feel like it’s back to normal – regardless of the religious season still going on.
It’s even more pronounced when you look at Easter. Sure, there’s a bunny, and some eggs (more repurposed pagan holdovers like the Yule log and Christmas tree), but Easter has nowhere near the fuss made over it that Christmas does…. despite Easter being a far more religiously important holiday. There is less commercialization and (perhaps thankfully) nobody claiming that there’s a “War on Easter”.
There are the presumptions, though – I’ve had Easter candy handed to me as a work promotion on Good Friday, a fast day – just as much as there is around Christmas. But hardly anyone castigates egg hunts, or the Easter Bunny.
The only explanation for the difference that I can think of is that it is the explicitly religious nature of the holiday that keeps it that way. Sure, there’s some cards and gifts, but compared to Christmas (or even Halloween), Easter just isn’t a big commercial opportunity. Because it’s not a big giftgasm, there’s no real commercial marketing in it.
Maybe the key to keeping Christmas a religious holiday, then, is to minimize all the commercial aspects of it. Maybe we could give gifts on Epiphany like the Magi did – that’s what the tradition is supposed to recollect, anyway. By focusing more on ourselves and our own family – instead of on copious amounts of public decoration, proclamation, and condemnation – Christmas could get back to being a real religious holiday again.