Even if for some reason you don’t celebrate, observe or participate in any of the various winter holidays, the majority of the people in this American culture does which means that to some degree you have to play by the rules, traditions and mores that come into play during this time of the year.
During the run-up to the holidays, if you want to buy something you must understand the stores will be jammed with shoppers, and a constant barrage of advertisements from all media will assault you. While out and about in public it will be hard to avoid the ubiquitous holiday music and when you get home you can be sure holiday specials will be all over the TV.
Most every one you meet, every sales person, waitperson, phone person, and just person person, will offer up a cheery “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays” “Feliz Navidad” or other holiday specific greeting. (And if you are someone who is offended by such greetings, my sincere holiday hope is that you will just lighten up and smile.)
Restaurants are busier, traffic is more congested, and patience is often in short supply. And on Christmas Day at least, whether you celebrate or not, your options for errands, business dealings and other day-to-day minutia will be very limited as few places will be open for business.
This week we are in that special period of time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It is a unique part of the calendar, and none of the other 51 weeks is quite like it. Many people have extra time off from work, and some have the entire week. School kids are liberated from the classroom. They say the Saturday after Christmas is the slowest news day of the year which leads me to wonder if people are taking a break from the latest crises and fears of the world. Even our ordinary daily routines are different somehow. It feels as if we have more time on our hands.
Surely such a special week has its own name, I reasoned, and yet I could not recall ever having heard of it. Having plenty of time on my hands, however, I decided to search out the name for the period between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Although the week in question doesn’t seem to have an “official” name, plenty of people have suggestions.
“Christmas Week” was the first proposed name I discovered and, honestly, I was a little disappointed. True it has a utilitarian aspect to it, but frankly it’s kind of boring. I have the same objection to “Holiday Week.” It’s way too generic. “Yuletide,” on the other hand, has an historical linage to pre-Christian Germanic tribes who used a lunar calendar to determine when “Yule” began and ended. Because Yule was celebrated from the end of December to the beginning of January, and the word has become associated with Christmas, it seems like a reasonable possibility. Also, it is not as dull as the first two.
One of my favorites is “Betwixtmas.” It’s unusual and clever. “Pre-Year” is another quirky name that I particularly liked. One person observed that since there are 12 day between Christmas Day and Epiphany, Jan. 6, and there six days between Christmas and new Year’s Day, “The Six Days of Christmas” might be a good name. My only objection to it is a selfish one. I would hear it spoken and immediately “The Twelve Days of Christmas” would get stuck in my head. Now, I like the tune well enough, but it goes on too long. To me it is the holiday version of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
The last suggestion I read was simply “Heaven.” I’m not sure that will stick as a common term for the last week of the year, but it certainly catches its spirit.