On the Last Day of Christmas
The actual last day of Christmas was, of course, a couple of days ago in the Western calendar, on December 6 (or December 5th—there seem to be different approaches to the counting). But the Feast of the Epiphany has been moved to the nearest Sunday, or however the rule is written. I don’t like the change—it seems too much a capitulation to the secular—but this year it does at least provide a harmony between the official calendar and the day when we take our tree down.
It’s at such points in the Church year that I regret the absence of a Catholic culture. After years of struggle against the secular-Protestant Christmas which mainly occurs during Advent, my wife and I are no longer fighting it all that hard. Our children are mostly grown, so we no longer have the motivating force of wanting to teach them the way it should be done. But one way in which we keep the flame alive is by waiting until a few days before Christmas to put up our tree, and until Epiphany (or thereabouts, depending on what else is going on) to take it down. Few Christmas seasons pass without some acquaintance twitting me about what appears to them as laziness or procrastination. I don’t mind this from non-Catholics, but to hear it from Catholics, which is not unusual, is pretty annoying.
So here we are again, two weeks after Christmas, our house one of the last in the neighborhood still showing Christmas lights. In the eyes of others these probably combine with our nondescript house and our yard in need of a good deal of work to give an impression of sloth. Well, so be it.
A few Christmases ago I mentioned to one of my then-teenaged daughters that I get more pleasure out of giving presents to my children than getting them myself. At first she didn’t believe me. In fact I’m not sure she ever did. I managed to stop myself from giving her the patronizing response that she wouldn’t understand until she had children of her own, but she probably won’t. The love of a normal parent for his or her children is for most of us the closest we will ever come to a truly unselfish love, in this life at any rate. And in it we get a hint of the love God bears to us. And we also get a hint of why God doesn’t always answer our prayers. We don’t give our children everything they want, and would be guilty of neglect if we did.
I always hate to take the tree down. Right now the living room seems empty and bare, and I think I would like for it to be Christmas all year ‘round. But of course I wouldn’t. I would soon tire of it; I would cease to notice or appreciate it, and it would be assumed into the normal drab background of everyday life. God knows this, and if this is a case where I can understand his will, it’s a good thing to think about while I get used to the passing of another Christmas.