There are two types of people in this world: those who love all the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas, and those who don’t. I think of it as Winnie the Pooh vs. Eeyore.
I fall into the second category, and I come by it genetically. My dad saw himself as a Christmas Eeyore, though I think his real beef was with what passes for Advent these days. My family believed his attitude derived from the fact that he was always grading final exams right up to Christmas Eve, but whatever the reason, he disliked what he called the “forced gaiety” of the season.
For Winnie the Pooh types, Christmas Day arrives as the culmination of all sorts of parties and traditions, with a wonderful dinner and Christmas carols capping off all of the gift buying, present wrapping and mailing that fill the modern Advent.
For Advent Eeyores, this season is when we somehow manage to take the expected stresses that come with the end of the year and multiply them: parties to express gratitude to co-workers, presents for everyone from the mail carrier to the newspaper delivery person, sky-high expectations combined with fiscal panic, and of course large quantities of food, booze and guilt.
While we try to remember the Reason for the Season, it’s tough. The Christmas Pooh Bear is happy but exhausted when the joyful marathon ends on Dec. 25, while the Advent Eeyore is just plain exhausted.
I don’t know if Advent can be saved, to be honest. When the first signs of red and green pop up in September, and eight weeks before Christmas are consumed in an advertising frenzy, Advent really doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Which is why I pin my hopes on the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Early and Medieval Christians were always looking for a way to extend a celebration, a particularly Catholic charism. I think that the vaunted Protestant efficiency and work ethic probably led to holidays coming in single days rather than in bunches, but Christmas was originally intended to be celebrated over a dozen days. Actually, a baker’s dozen, if you add on the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
My belief is that this tradition is something both Pooh Bears and Eeyores can agree on. Any good Pooh Bear is up for a little more celebrating, and this is the perfect time to do it. As for Eeyores, they can actually enjoy the relative peace and quiet that follows the commercial madness.
This Christmas season, save a little cheer for those 12 days. Open a few presents on Epiphany. Go to Mass during the week. Plan a few special outings with friends and family. Savor the carols a bit longer, and really listen to the words. Keep your Christmas lights on till Jan. 6. If we all do it, even an Eeyore will finally be able to enjoy the reason for the season.
Many of us have over the years heard Cardinal John Foley narrate the papal Mass from St. Peter’s every Christmas. Sadly, Cardinal Foley passed away just a few weeks before Christmas this year after a long battle with leukemia. He was a bright, witty, humble man who served his Church faithfully and well. Many of us who were fortunate enough to have known him appreciated his great love for Catholic media and his many, many efforts to support us.
As president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, he also spearheaded an effort to make the values and teachings of the Catholic Church relevant in the burgeoning fields of public relations, advertising and digital media.
With his innate dignity and good will, he was a genuine prince of the Church, and he will be sorely missed.
Greg Erlandson is OSV president and publisher.