Happy New Year!
We often bemoan the fact that ferocious weeks of pre-Christmas preparation leave a sense of emptiness at the speed at which the day passes, or about the way the spiritual meaning of the feast (whatever we mean by that) is eclipsed by commercialism and materialism.
The Spanish-speaking countries encourage their citizens to treat Christmastide as a full season rather than simply one day by giving prominence to the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January, when according to tradition, the three kings, or wise men, came to worship the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. Admittedly, the feast of Los Reyes does seem to include another occasion for giving presents, but it is also celebrated with processions, other outdoor events and special meals.
This photo shows the large stage being set up in the centre of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in early January, 2006, for their imminent Los Reyes event.
UK towns often still have cribs in public spaces and offices, but the Spanish belens, such as this one in a municipal building in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, are usually more imposing.
Large nativity scenes are familiar in other parts of Europe, mostly the Catholic countries, such as this one of life-sized figures and real animals, photographed in Funchal, Madeira.
Coincidentally, the UK charity Casc-aid is suggesting that churches should promote the idea that Christmas Day is the first day of the Christmas season and not the culmination of it. The charity judges that the average adult spends £400 on Christmas presents and recommends a reduction in our spending in order both to share resources and reduce individual stress.
Perhaps greater efforts could be made to reinstate the Epiphany as an important part of the UK Christmas season : after all Twelfth Night was part of native practice long before the name was adopted by Shakespeare.
Another, wry, perspective on the long-drawn-out commercialism of Christmas was provided by US musician Loudon Wainwright in his song “Suddenly It’s Christmas” – sure to be available on You Tube somewhere.