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My kids say I’m a crank. Well, they never exactly say that. They have what they imagine to be subtle ways of letting me know I’ve gone off the map of civilization. I fear they may be right.
Last year, about this time, I went to my son’s office. He works in Manhattan, so we had to check in at the security desk of the office tower.
While we stood at the desk we chatted with the two security guards who were using their video cameras and audio system to help some poor lost soul find the one parking garage entrance that works on a Saturday morning. As we lingered, I observed a little sign on the desk. I don’t remember what it was about because at the top it said, “The Twelve Days of Christmas starts December 1st”, and I didn’t see anything after that. This is where the cranky part comes in.
I know that Christmas doesn’t just belong to Christians. Maybe that’s good. Maybe it’s not. For sure, it’s too much for me to ponder right now. I’ve got a Christmas party in 14 hours.
It did set my little mind spinning with frustration. Because, you see, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” start on December 25. They end on Epiphany Day, January 6th, also called Twelfth Night (remember your Shakespeare?)
In many traditions, predominantly northern Europe, gift-giving culminates on January 6th— celebrating the arrival of the gift-bearing Magi in the Christmas story—hence the ubiquitous “12 Days of Christmas” song about gifts gone berserk.
“You know,” I say in that friendly tone that my son later terms curmudgeonly, “The Twelve Days of Christmas don’t start on December 1st. They start on Christmas Day. December 25th through January 6th—that’s the season of Christmas. This is the season of Advent. This thing is all wrong.”
The two women look up at me and one of them says, “Really?” with what sounds to me like general interest. We chat a minute, then the other woman says, “I should know that, I’m Catholic and they talk about that all the time. I guess I never noticed.”
I was unpleasant. They were pleasant. I was a crank. They were curious. I told them information that wasn’t going to make their life better (although it would make them smarter than their friends.) They asked questions and talked to me about their faith. They smiled at me. I smiled back. My son scolded me in the elevator about my rudeness. It all worked out pretty well, I’d say.
Next, I have to help everybody understand that they shouldn’t take their trees and lights down until January 6th, conveniently situated on a Saturday this year, and that their gifts are not late if they arrive anytime until January 6th, thus giving access to some of the best sales of the year.
May your holiday be blessed, however you celebrate it.