I’m going to describe a graph, but I’m uncertain what to label the vertical axis. Probably labelling it “energy” would be the closest. The horizontal axis is definitely time, measured in days. The graph as a whole describes the Christmas – New Year period.
Starting on the day before Christmas Eve, the “energy” is high as people rush around preparing for Christmas. The mood is generally on the up, looking forward to the Christmas break. This year, as Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday, most people would have been off work, many until after the New Year holiday, so the Monday (the day before Christmas Eve) and the Tuesday (Christmas Eve) become part of the holiday.
Christmas Eve itself is an up day as everyone makes final preparations for the big day. Last minute shopping, cleaning, tidying have to be fitted around present wrapping and ensuring that the menu for the next day is in place. Some people prepare all the vegetables for Christmas day and nearly everyone remembers to get the turkey out of the freezer. Parents with children often face the twin task of preparing stockings and making the kids go to bed with the hope that they will finally drop off. Sometimes the duties extend well beyond midnight.
Christmas Day itself is a day of at least two parts. No matter how late they went to be the kids will wake up early, no doubt rousing their parents from some hastily snatched hours of sleep, then the day continues from there. Many families still go to church in the morning though this practise is declining.
The rest of the morning goes into cooking, eating, and no doubt drinking, as well as unwrapping presents, stopping kids (and older people) squabbling about trivialities. All this peaks when lunch is served. In the southern hemisphere, if it doesn’t rain, this may be eaten outside.
In the afternoon, the mood declines to the point where some people may become comatose. Granny always sleeps in the afternoon, but so will Uncle Bill, who ate too much pudding and drank too much alcohol. Parents with kids might not be able to relax completely and may be arm-twisted into games of backyard cricket, at least in this hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere parents will no doubt be required to help with those construction toys or technical gadgets that the kids have been given. Nevertheless the mood is definitely down on the peak of the Christmas meal.
Boxing is interesting. It may be a down day, if for instance you have over-indulged the day before. Or it may be an up day if you are interested in the ‘traditional’ Boxing Day sales. This year I had to make a small purchase so I went to the local mall. The place was crowded, but unfortunately for the retailers there was a glitch with the EFTPOS systems and all purchases had to be strictly cash. I believe that spending on Boxing Day 2013 still broke records.
After Boxing Day comes the lull. I’m writing this halfway through the lull, which extends from the day after boxing day to the day before New Year’s Eve. Most people celebrate the New Year, even if it is at a much less energetic level than Christmas Day. I generally stay up on New Year’s Eve to ‘see the new year in’ for no very good reason, I admit. Some people choose New Year as the chance to drink and eat more than usual, as a sort of full stop/period to mark the end of the holiday, even though they may not be returning to work until the beginning of the next week.
But back to the lull. The lull does not have to be an emotional down period, but it is probably, for most people, an energetic down period. People have survived Christmas and have a lesser celebration to look forward to in a week. It is a time for relaxing, taking the kids to the beach or the movies, visiting Granny, or merely settling down with that book that someone gave you for Christmas.
It’s a time for eating increasingly stale mince pies, trying to find leftovers interesting, and generally tidying up the loose ends of Christmas. Maybe a trip to the mall with that token someone gave you. Maybe watching the England – Australia test match.
It’s a period with intrinsically no pressures, though for some people their circumstances may override this – from those who are about to give birth to those about to depart this life and those experiencing all life’s dramas in between, this period can be highly emotionally or energetically charged. But in general, it is a lull.
So my graph starts off low on the eve of Christmas Eve, and climbs through Christmas Eve. I originally wrote ‘climbs steadily’, but it may climb erratically but will trend upwards until the end of lunchtime Christmas Day. Then it drops dramatically, during the afternoon, as people relax after the exertions and excitements of the morning. Even washing up, while a chore, is still at a lower level than the peak of Christmas lunch.
On Boxing Day the graph may rise a little (for the shoppers) or drop (for those ‘tired’ from the exertions and consumption of the day before). And then comes the lull, a tranquil period between Boxing Day and the eve of New Year’s Eve, a relaxed period for most, I’d say. The graph remains low and level with maybe a lift as New Year gets closer.
On New Year’s Eve the graph may rise again. Some people like to party on the turn of the year, but the intensity of the celebration may not in most cases match Christmas. With the exception of the celebration of the year 2000, there is no real drive to make New Year an intense experience, though people do gather in the likes of Times Square to ‘see in the New Year’.
So, there you have my graph of the Christmas/New Year period. The rise from the foothills of pre-Christmas to the Everest of Christmas Day, followed by the valley of the lull before New Year and the minor peak of New Year itself. It remains to mention the lowlands of the period before those who work return to it at the beginning of January.
I hope that all of you who celebrate Christmas had a good one and are looking forward to a pleasant New Year, and best wishes to those who do not celebrate this season either because of religion or conviction and those whose calendar does not align with the one to which I am accustomed.