We Need to Move Christmas

Illustration: Jim Cooke/GMG

The worst thing about Christmas is that it makes winter longer,
and unbearably so. Thanksgiving ends and suddenly it’s supposed
to be Christmas, even though there are still orange leaves here
and there, which some people—I would venture to say a lot of
people—like. Fall is tolerable enough that we don’t need to run
out the clock on it, and yet we do, by sticking Christmas right
after Thanksgiving, when as a group, we are tired to our bones,
but not of the right things, and unable to admit it. We’re
tired of our families, of hearty foods, of holidays themselves.
You know you’ve got a problem on your hands when you’re
literally tired of love. Why not give ourselves a break and
move Christmas to the end of January?

Our current calendar is childlike and impulsive. Christmas and
Thanksgiving jammed together is money spent the moment we earn
it. It’s two naps on Saturday morning, and none on Sunday. It’s
a sandwich at the second mile of a marathon, then a hot dog at
mile four. It leaves us limping the rest of the way with a
cramp we gave ourselves. It’s a break we see as work because of
all it entails. But more to the point: it’s still fall in
December.

My former colleague
Jia Tolentino once argued, about fall, that
“‘Things
getting cold’ is just not a theme worth honoring.” While I
agree, it’s how things are. It’s questionable that this is so,
but it remains the truth that Christmas celebrates winter
itself as much as it celebrates anything else, and it is
psychologically unmooring to pretend to be having an experience
other than the one you’re actually having. The message
snowflakes taped to preschool windows and blow-up Santas on
stoops sends is that you should have noticed that it’s winter.
But it’s not. To call the game on the carpet is a
betrayal of the season; it’s un-American; you’re a grinch. This
is the psychological equivalent of wearing a wool sweater to
the beach or drinking hot chocolate at a barbecue but being
told it’s a cold beer.

The earth’s axis is tilted in such a way that the first day of
winter is December 21st. All that seasonal cheer is aligned for
four days, and then we have to trudge through three months of
dark, uncelebrated winter.

Then it’s New Years, and you better take down the tree or get
called a hoarder by your judgmental adult son. Maybe it snowed,
maybe it hasn’t. If you live in most of the continental United
States, it probably hasn’t. How depressing.

New Years is a perfect holiday because unlike Christmas, you
lean into it at will; celebrate it or don’t, with friends and
family or without. Eat a goose, eat Chinese food, eat a
burrito, eat whatever. No one really cares. In fact, it’s the
perfect holiday to sit squarely between Thanksgiving and (New)
Christmas because if you could use some celebration, go nuts,
but if you’re still recovering from Thanksgiving or are out of
money, you can drink cheap prosecco alone in a bathtub, mostly
without societal derision.

Then it’s January, and all that snow you ordered has finally
shown up, but you’re out of vacation days, so you can’t
luxuriate it and give hygge a whirl. In front of you
stretch three months, lazily glaring at you with the lights
off. Kelly Conaboy thinks the answer is to
keep the festive lights on
. She might be right, but it’s
nice to take a break from being on, whether you’re a
person or a light. And it would be nice to do that without
thinking your only bedfellows from here on out are going to be
Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, winter’s unbearable
daughter and degenerate son.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make it through January
knowing there was a reward at the end? This is what I’m saying.

You may think that to take such a viewpoint would require a
person love, celebrate, or at the very least observe Christmas.
You would be wrong. I don’t really love Christmas, and this is
my idea. I find that as a holiday, it can hurt; memories show
up when they’re not invited, and they’re often dressed somberly
when it’s supposed to be a party. Other people, in lit windows
across the street, in my phone, or in my imagination seem to be
having more fun. The religious get righteous and the
nonreligious are worse. At Christmas, the rich seem richer, the
poor seem poorer, and my heart aches a lot of the time.

I can’t solve that. But maybe everyone would be in a better
mood in January if they got a few days off at the end of it for
a holiday, even one they don’t care for or celebrate. People
who don’t observe Christmas might even be spared some of its
cloying pageantry if we went with my plan. Maybe Christmas
wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t come 45 minutes after
another Major National Holiday and it wouldn’t make those whose
families don’t observe it feel so left out. And those who do
observe it might be in a better mood if they didn’t have to pat
their mothers on the shoulder when they complain about how they
“always want a snowy Christmas and never get it.” Maybe if
they’d had a little more time to buy all those gifts that every
year I keep trying to get out of both giving and receiving, we
could all relax a little bit.

About those gifts. I hate to talk about “Christmas creep,” but
it’s the white elephant in the room. People hate Christmas
creep, but retailers demand five weeks to sell you stuff, and
they’re gonna get it unless we seize the means of production,
and these days that seems more far-fetched than changing the
date of Christmas. Let’s put a pin in workers of the world
uniting—a thing I am decidedly for—and focus on how great it
would be if you didn’t receive any emails imploring you to buy
“last-minute gifts for dad” on November 30th. What if Christmas
creep started the week before New Years? Wouldn’t that be
preferable to being told, before the pumpkin pie has even left
your small intestine, “You’re late to Christmas. Spend money
now”?

I hear someone in the back muttering, “Guess Jesus can just
move his birthday. To which I say, “I heard that, and
yeah, I guess he can!” My birthday is over Memorial Day
weekend, but I usually go out for a nice little dinner on
Tuesday once my pals get back in town. I can handle it, and God
isn’t even my dad. I’m sure Jesus can handle it.

I hear a pedant, also in the back, saying, “Actually, Jesus
wasn’t even born on December 25th” to which I say, “God, you
are so annoying.”

This isn’t just a solution to everything, it’s an opportunity:
If your problem is you like seasonal lattes, drink pumpkin
spice until December 21, and then start in on peppermint and
cruise right through Christmas on January 25. You actually get
more months of seasonal latte this way.

Careful readers will note that, thus far, this has been a
mostly meteorological argument dressed up as a cultural
request. But just because you live in Florida doesn’t mean you
couldn’t benefit from (New) Christmas. Unfortunately, someone
(not me), shelved the overthrow of capitalism, so should you be
so happy as to find yourself employed, you probably can count
on being chained to your job for the rest of your life. It is
cruel that America’s retail workers, maybe including you, have
to work the most challenging day of the year mere hours after
Thanksgiving. Let’s have black Friday be after New Years, the
greatest holiday of them all for the reasons I covered above.
It’s inconvenient that at Jezebel, we have to get together our
“end of year content” while half of us are on vacation. Many of
America’s workplaces awkwardly force the economic necessities
of the end of one year and the beginning of another to happen
while their workers are trying to relax. Surely, if you live in
warm places, these conditions still apply. The time between
Thanksgiving is thought of as a sort of dead time, and yet so
much has to happen. The culprit? Christmas unreasonably crammed
in the middle.

January, as a result, has become a flat time. There’s nothing
but hard work and low light. It’s a good time for dental
appointments and worrying about your station in life. It’s a
month we use to “buckle down,” to order and eat salads, to buy
humidifiers, and catch colds. Celebrations are over in January,
and any part of your heart that was twinkling must now devote
itself to tracking down your W-2. Why couldn’t we do all this
with festive lights up and a tree in the living room? January
is black coffee and cold feet, and I’d like to at least be able
to throw a little cinnamon in that coffee without feeling like
the last one the leave the fair.

Winter is long enough without burning through the one nice
thing about it on the fourth day of the season. I don’t think
this nation is going to make it though another four-month
winter with nothing to brighten it up but novelty condoms and
green beer. This Christmas, when you find yourself annoyed to
be seeing everyone a month after you just saw them, bothered by
the way your sister says “milk,” or simply and indiscriminately
burned out on holidays, consider that it could be different.
This winter, when you’re trudging home from work in a jacket
that isn’t quite warm enough, from a job that doesn’t quite pay
enough, to an apartment that is either a little too hot or a
little too warm, jolly lights and the comfort of loved ones and
seasonal beverages miles behind you in the rear-view mirror,
ask yourself if you might have had yourself a merrier little
Christmas if it had come in January?

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