Christmas Is Over. Or Is It?

Just because it’s December 26th doesn’t mean Christmas is over. Some Christmases seem to last forever. Here’s a look at some of the ways Christmas can linger.

Christmas the week after Christmas. Didn’t get the cards and packages into the mail? Oopsie! At least we can blame the Post Office or UPS. Not that that fools anyone, but if you’re skilled enough, you can pull off this excuse. Or you can give cakes, cookies, or other gifts of food and know that they will be eaten for at least a few days after the food-rich holiday celebration has worn off. And leftover Christmas cookies make great New Year’s Eve snacks, at least according to my friend Beth. Dunk them in cocoa and no one will ever know they’re stale.

Russian Christmas. All the Easter Orthodox Christians’ celebrations, really. They have Christmas on January 7th. At one office where I worked, our department included one person of Slavic heritage who celebrated Russian Christmas. Our department head decided that we all would too. I think it was supposed to be out of respect for Annie, but I suspect it was really because Carl liked to avoid the whole-office frivolities and have a quieter celebration later. Not that it got us out of the enforced jollity of the Official Office Christmas Party, but it did provide a nice P.S. to the season.

Christmas gifts that keep on giving. One year when I was a teen, my parents were plagued with medical expenses and couldn’t afford elaborate presents. The main present that year was an appropriate magazine subscription for each of us. (Mine was Sky and Telescope, if I remember correctly. It was either that or Analog Science Fiction.) Every month when an issue came, it was like Christmas all over again.

And subscriptions don’t just have to be magazines these days. Wine, fruit, and other foodstuffs can be delivered regularly throughout the year – monthly or quarterly – bringing a breath of Christmas as they arrive. And if the first package arrives in January, who’s to know whether you ordered it the day before Christmas or the day after?

Another long-term gift is the coupon book. Although a book of car wash coupons barely makes it as an adequate stocking stuffer, coupons for home-baked treats, chores (or reprieves from chores), and even erotic activities can be a big hit. Kids can get in on at least the first two of those, either as givers or recipients.

The Christmas-in-the-future strategy. One Christmas my friend Caren gave me a nicely wrapped gift. When I opened it, it proved to be a number of strands of yarn, in various shades of blue, purple, and indigo. There was no card explaining it, and she refused to tell me what it was all about. “You’ll see,” she said.

Later – much later – it was June, I think – Caren unveiled the actual present. It was a lovely knitted blanket, made of panels of the various colors of yarn I had received at Christmas. (Since she was an engineer, the panels were arranged in a specific geometrical pattern.) It was cozy, beautiful, and welcome, even if it was several more months before I could actually use it.

364 days before Christmas shopping. Nowadays, ugly holiday sweaters are the vogue – the tackier the better. But Christmas sweaters used to be badges of pride and belonging rather than objects of ridicule. Once I worked in an office where it was customary for women to wear holiday sweaters, and even sweatshirts “bedazzled” with shiny objects, iron-on appliqués, and embroidery.

Holiday clothing was not a custom I had ever practiced. I was trying desperately to fit in with the others, but I was not about to spend $20-$30  on a sweater I would wear perhaps two times per year, or a sweatshirt, glitter, glue, and sequins that would inevitably end up stuck to my hands and face.

So I started haunting the day-after-Christmas sales. Holiday sweaters were abundant and cheap. (If you wait much longer, all the holiday fashions will have disappeared into back rooms.) I managed to pick up a couple of sweaters and a festive vest at bargain prices. My favorite was a dark blue sweater with a nighttime scene of Santa landing on rooftops. (I look better in blue than red and green.) I packed the garments away in preparation for the next spate of holiday festivities.

Wouldn’t you know it – I left that job to go freelance before the next December came. Now I have all these sweaters and no place to wear them – except the Chinese buffet, where my husband and I usually spend our holidays, among the pagans, Jews, and atheists, chowing down on lo mein, crab legs, and “Happy Family.”

And we can return there, year-round, and celebrate the holidays year-round.

But I feel certain I should leave the Christmas sweaters at home in the dresser.


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