Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
The week after Christmas
Jonal entry 1083 | December 27 2008
I've lamented in Christmases past the rush to forget the feast as quickly as possible after December 25 and the loss of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas (which had happened long before my time). But as I watch the passing of Christmas in my own home and the world of commerce, I also miss, almost to the extent of saying "I grieve" the loss of the week after Christmas as I knew it as a child. I don't know whether others notice this or it's mainly a function of the dysfunctions of my own family, so I won't generalize.
In the Kennedy household on Redmill Road of my childhood, Christmas was just as much with us (at least with me) in the days from December 26 to January 1 as on December 25. Admittedly, this "Christmas" lacked some of the spiritual content (except for the continued playing and singing of carols and the observance of the Lord's Day that fell in that week), but its intent if not content was pure. These were the days to really celebrate Christmas. The gifts were always spread out under the tree and hanging in the stocking (always returned to their proper places by their owners each night), the goodies (all manner of candies, popcorn balls, cookies, dates, and nuts) were in dishes all around the dining and living rooms, and the occupation of the week was to consume as many of both, and do so as gratefully, as possible. No small gift item, even one that came in one of the Christmas treats given out at school, church, or the Capital Theater, or those received in name exchanges (commonly called "secret Santa" these days) was ignored or left unused. Even if there were items that seemed inadequate for the day (such as articles of clothing like new fur-lined gloves or a scarf) they got their turns. If it was cold enough outside to need the two example items, they were worn out for walks in the snow with the dog or for sledding or visiting neighbors. If the weather was mild, those gifts would be modeled in pictures taken to send or give to their givers later.
There were always lots of time-consuming (and relatively inexpensive) items under the tree or in the stocking on Christmas, sometimes I think just because Mom had in mind all these hours to be whiled away inside the house that week. Things like coloring and puzzle books, boxed games (like checkers, Chinese checkers, or Easy Money, a knockoff of Monopoly), nongrambling card games like Authors, or, earlier in childhood, Old Maids. These were our equivalent of today's video games, except that unlike the latter the games of those days always required at least two players and they were always played in the room dominated by the Christmas tree. What was the point of having a Christmas tree if it was not the focus of a child's life for at least a week every year? Today, the tree is so low-tech alongside most of the distractions in youngsters' lives that they hardly notice, much less focus on, it even on Christmas eve and day. And these days, also, the tree is usually there in its place for weeks before Christmas, so it's already old before Christmas day. In our house, at least, it was never set up and trimmed until Christmas eve.
Coloring in coloring books and putting together boxed jigsaw puzzles were very low interests in my childhood, but even those got their turns. To ignore them would be ingratitude, and that was (and is) a major sin of childhood.
Then, as now, most Christmases were "green" (but not in Al Gore's sense) instead of "white," but usually during that week there was snow, and sometimes in abundance, to make up for its lack on Christmas eve. So that served as my white Christmas on the 27th or 28th of December just as well; a belated Christmas gift from above. Sometimes there would be enough of the white stuff to keep my truck driver brother Bob "stuck" with us a day or two longer than he intended to visit, and I saw that as an additional late Christmas gift to me, to have someone to play some of these games with, or maybe take me to a movie. Even waiting for and watching through the curtains for the snowplow's arrival, especially after dark if snow was still falling, was a Christmas treat that week.
The simplicity of life in those less affluent but more creative times was another key, second to gratitude, to its magicality. Giving gifts and keeping oneself boredom-free are more meaningful when some creativity and imagination go into them. Some observers on our current world economic turmoil, including even the Pope of Rome, have expressed hopes that some of that simplicity, and gratitude for small favors, will be recovered as a byproduct of having to cut back on material comforts. I'm sure that will happen in the lives of some, and suspect that those will be the ones gaining some value even from their latter-day deprivations.
Gift-wrapping tips for men
» Whenever possible, buy gifts that are already wrapped. If, when the recipient opens the gift, neither one of you recognizes it, you can claim that it's myrrh.
» The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch. They must be smoking crack.
» If you're giving a hard-to-wrap gift, skip the wrapping paper! Just put it inside a bag and stick one of those little adhesive bows on it. This creates a festive visual effect that is sure to delight the lucky recipient on Christmas morning.
Your wife: Why is there a Hefty trash bag under the tree?
You: It's a gift! See? It has a bow!
Your wife: (peering into the trash bag) It's a leaf blower.
You: Gas-powered! Five horsepower!
Your wife: I want a divorce.
You: I also got you some myrrh.
In conclusion, remember that the important thing is not what you give, or how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt.