So that was Christmas

A good proportion of London’s buses are currently sporting an advert informing us that ‘Creme Egg season is here : 1st Jan-4th April’. The fourth of April, this year, is Easter Sunday. So forty nine days of the Easter season are, apparently, out of bounds as regards Easter egg eating.
Christmas, meanwhile, ended after second vespers today. Even by the most pre-conciliar lights it ended on the 6th January. And there is in fact an English medieval custom which extends the season until Candlemas. In spite of all this, I was spotting thrown out Christmas trees from New Year’s Day onwards. My own tree went after evening prayer today, although I shall be keeping tinsel up until Candlemas, as a mini-protest against our growing cultural inability to extend celebrations. Christmas is prematurely celebrated from mid-October onwards, but you trying buying a Christmas pudding more than a couple of days after Christmas Day itself.
Now I am well aware that this might all be sounding a bit grumpy old manish. I do think, though, that this lopsided attitude towards the celebration of Christmas and Easter tells us something about the society in which we live. The reason Christmas Day is so widely pre-empted is largely economic. Christmas qua consumer capitalist buyfest is an important annual opportunity to sell things. Thus advertising, which is a more important part of our cultural life than we often realise, focuses on getting us to buy things in anticipation of the day. But once money has changed hands, there is no imperative for people to persist in a celebration which won’t make any money for anyone. Exactly the opposite: it is preferable that everyone get back to work as quickly as possible, so as not to interfere with the process of producing and consuming wealth. This is how religious festivals are kept in a world in which human beings exist for the economy, rather than the economy for human beings.

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