A Tale of Two Christmases

Yesterday (January 5) was Twelfth Night, in olden days recognized as the final day in the Christmas season. Ignored by most people now, Twelfth Night may have a ring of Shakespearean familiarity. It is the occasion for which his comedy of that name was meant to entertain.

I still cling to a Twelfth Night observation. Otherwise, it seems as if we catapult our way from Christmas to New Year’s, landing with a thud on January 2. The party is over. We’re befuddled by the new year’s reality, which feels an awful lot like the old year’s. 

Twelfth Night offers a more gentle landing, like reading a good book, coming to the end and closing the cover with a satisfied pat. It’s a lovely day for lighting candles one more time, listening to carols before tucking them away for another year, packing up decorations, and reflecting on lingering joy. I celebrated this year by lunching with two friends who described their Christmases.

“I boycotted Christmas,” announced Friend No. 1. So much for my gentle landing. She sounded both defiant and liberated. And really, if I’d had a December like  hers, I would’ve boycotted not only Christmas but the entire world. She had demands for year-end reports piling high on her desk when (a) both of the family’s two cars quit running, which maybe wasn’t that big a problem because (b) two family members were stuck at home with Covid, which was anxiety-producing because (c) this year’s especially heavy snow load has resulted in their home’s cracked ceiling.

Because they have offspring, my friend’s boycott was not total. There was a small tree and gifts. Otherwise, she advised extended family and friends that there’d be no packages or cards in the mail, no cookies in the oven.

And then there was Friend No. 2, who began by listing her Christmas dinner guests. They were a variety of ages, religious backgrounds, interests, etc., with one thing in common — they all would have been alone for Christmas dinner. (May I digress: there’s nothing wrong with peaceful solitude on Christmas if you enjoy it, and I do, but that’s another story.) 

Friend No. 2 admitted she was two hours behind schedule getting her guests seated at the table. The meal was delayed by numerous side dishes. I’m not talking about the mashed potatoes, vegetables, salads, etc. Her side dishes were plates of food she and her guests delivered to folks who couldn’t make it to her house for various reasons. I would have found the combination of guests in my home AND deliveries a hair-pulling logistical challenge. She  made it sound as if it’d been no more complicated than buttering toast. She adopted just the right tone of humility, telling us everyone proclaimed her meal delicious.

After our luncheon, I considered the many ways people celebrate Christmas, including — maybe especially — the self-proclaimed “boycotter.” Her day job involves helping people solve problems that are too often unsolvable. She’s overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and above all, compassionate. Boycott Christmas? Nah, she observes Christmas — the REAL Christmas — every day of the year.

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