Happy Twelfth Night, friends. Did you know that today is the last day of Christmas? I certainly didn’t until recently, but I wish I had. I don’t remember what year it was, but I think I was still in elementary school and believed in Santa. It was Christmas Day, and we had just finished opening presents. I was overwhelmed by the options in front of me and had no idea what to do. I was sitting with my mom, and she said something to me that I’ll always remember:
“It’s always a bit of a letdown after Christmas.”
Her words hit the center of what I was feeling. We’d spent almost a month, traditionally on Black Friday in my home, preparing for Christmas Day. Almost every single day was devoted to some kind of holiday festivity, whether it be baking a new treat, or decorating something, or just watching a movie. It was a special time. Each year my mom worked tirelessly to give us the Christmas of our dreams, which is something I’ve done my best to carry on.
Actually, let me clarify that: I don’t just carry on the Christmas tradition; I make a damn festival out of it. It’s like for the entirety of the year, I am in hibernation, sweating out the summer months, desperately waiting for the crisp air and scent of cinnamon that tells me the holidays are coming. And for me, the holidays start on October 1st, when Halloween preparations begin. Of course, as I live in the Bay Area, it takes a little while for that crisp air to make an appearance, but I’m patient.
During the holidays, it’s almost as if the air is infused with magic. My relationship with magic is a little complicated: I don’t believe in it, but I desperately wish I could. Likewise, I don’t believe the legend that the veils between the worlds thin during this time, but I hope it could exist. Then again, if magic were real, I would totally be that dumb-ass that gets her baby replaced by a changeling. Or I would get tricked into a thousand years of servitude by elves. I know I’m not a protagonist – I’m the cautionary tale that parents use to warn their children away from danger.
Christmas is a complicated holiday. We spend weeks building up to a massive celebration, only for Christmas Day to arrive and fizzle out. If you have a small family, as I do, then you spend the morning opening presents, kill time in the middle of the day, and then have dinner. It’s underwhelming after a month of build-up. And the day itself isn’t necessarily a happy one, especially for people who spend it alone. So even though I love the celebrations leading up to Christmas Day, I have felt very lonely on the day itself. I wish Christmas Day didn’t feel like a culmination of the year.
This is why I think we should celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. So let’s take the pressure off of December 25th. The song “The 12 Days of Christmas” usually makes me want to drown myself. Still, once I realized that those stupid lyrics correlated with a real part of Christmas past, I changed my mind. The song is still trash, but I think it’s fascinating that once upon a time, there were 12 days of Christmas, beginning on December 25th and lasting until January 5th. This time is also known as “Christmastide.”
In some ways, we do still celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. People will often leave their Christmas decorations up until January 6th (otherwise known as Epiphany). Other countries will also wait to celebrate Christmas until January 6th. In addition to “Epiphany,” January 6th is known as Three Kings Day or Día de Los Reyes. It is the day on which the three wise men visited baby Jesus. In some countries, like Spain, the three kings leave presents for children. Instead of myrrh, they bring toys and chocolate, which are a little more appropriate for kids.
Because there are global precedents for celebrating Christmas officially for 12 days, I think there is already more than enough reason to extend the celebration beyond December 25th. Though I have other reasons. I think that extending the Christmas celebration would provide some much-needed structure to those awkward days that fall from December 26th to the 31st. You know that week – the one that you probably spend watching movies and eating Christmas leftovers and sleeping too much. Given what usually occurs during that time, it makes sense to take advantage of the 12 days, and I suggest that time be used to do what makes you happy.
Or we could make new traditions! What if December 27th was reserved for reaching out to people we haven’t spoken to in a while? Or what if on January 2nd, people were encouraged to spend their day volunteering? Hell, we could dub December 30th the Day of Introverts, and that’s the day you’re encouraged most to stay home and read a book. Or catch up on “Hilda,” seeing as how “Hilda and the Mountain King” was released on December 30th!
Now, there will be those saying, “But I don’t celebrate Christmas” or “I don’t like Christmas.” Well, then, okay. That’s fine. My suggestion for you is to just continue living your life as normal. Tada. I’m not trying to change the law, just influence the holiday celebration culture. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.
My last reason is to hopefully prevent something insidious that I’ve noticed every year. Normally I enjoy New Year’s Day – in addition to it falling during the 12 days of Christmas, it is also an important holiday in Greek culture. We have a fun tradition in which we bake an orange cake called the “Vasilopita.” Then, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, we cut into the cake to bring good luck into the new year. We bake the cake with a coin inside, and whoever gets that special piece is blessed with good luck for the year. In 2021, Bean got the coin and passed the BAR, so I think there’s something to this tradition.
I love this tradition, making vasilopita and thinking about what the new year will bring to us. But you know what I don’t love? Being inundated with pervasive ads about weight loss now that “Christmas is over.” Can we as a culture just admit that this is a sick practice? That after December, a month of merry-making and joy, companies like Weight Watchers and NutriSystem swoop in like vultures to feast off of our body-shame and guilt?
Few things depress me more than that first weight loss commercial in January. It’s like an announcement to the world that the brilliant merriment of the holidays is now over. Now it’s time to bring back discipline and restriction! The warm glow of the yule log is replaced by the bright fluorescents of the gym. The thing is, it’s not even like every single person overindulges during the holidays. People go to the gym and hike outside during the colder months. We still eat salad and vegetables. So even though I hoovered every peanut butter cup I saw, I still made an effort to go out and get my stroll on once in a while. December, and Christmas for that matter, does not mean “Eat everything in sight and then hate yourself.” It is a time to enjoy yourself and the company of others, which often involves food.
It’s why I get so upset when I see those weight loss commercials in January. They feel like a punishment for enjoying yourself over the holidays. Celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas won’t end those commercials and companies profiting from our poor body image. Still, I think it will remind us that we deserve to celebrate our lives. We deserve to have fun, relax, and spend time with the people we love. The few weeks of advent before Christmas to lead to a single dinner with family isn’t enough. So let’s bring back the 12 days of celebration and embrace happiness.