The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Merry Christmas

By Jennifer McDougall

When I exercise at home, I do so in front of the television where I can indulge in American daytime talk shows. I figure that as long as I’m giving my body a workout, it’s fair to give my brain some candy. With the long weekend approaching, predictably, the reruns are being aired. What surprised me was how many of these were Christmas themed episodes originally shown last December. How obvious must it be that a repeat is being slipped in? I’ll agree that around my place it looks and feels an awful lot like Christmas these days thanks to a spring snowstorm, but honestly, do seasons and dates make no difference anymore?

I’ll admit that I am one of those people to whom the actual date of an annual celebration is not drastically important. Take my extended family’s “quarterly birthday parties”. If you are born between July and September as I am, you can expect to share your cake with up to five other people either in early July or some time in the third week of August depending on who’s in town. This is fine by me, as long as there is a celebration.

My aunt enjoys her birthday so much she embraces an entire “birthday week” allowing plenty of time to celebrate with her girlfriends, her children, her co-workers, plus a special date with her husband – why keep it to one day? Yet to her husband, dates are important. Thanks to his photographic memory-like ability, he can tell you which famous person you share a birthday with or what historical event coincides with your wedding anniversary.

Many religious observances are unconnected to a specific calendar date. This weekend’s pinnacle of Christianity is a perfect example. Annually, the date of Easter Sunday is calculated - at least by the western rite - as the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after March 21 (the day of the ecclesiastical vernal equinox). This complex calculation keeps us guessing every year.

Even the celebration of Jesus’ birth date is only symbolic. Historians suggest that he was in fact born in the spring or summer and that the Dec 25th date was chosen for a variety of other social and political reasons.

The month-long observance of Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Who sees this moon from which shore is a likely point of annual contention.

I’m looking forward to other posts here at the CWC this month as the nature of annual celebration is discussed and celebrated. I’m wondering to what extent others are committed to the ceremony of anniversary especially when it is married to a specific date. Perhaps a date’s importance softens over the years. I know that my husband and I have become much more flexible when recognizing dates that were once central to our pre-marital romance. Our Valentine’s dinner dates now take place on a night sometime in February when the stars align. In other words, all four kids are healthy, a sitter is available, and we’re able to get a reservation.

In an attempt to learn more about what today represents for somebody out there, I went to the second best source for trivial information – my uncle was unavailable – and looked up birthdays occurring on April 3. Lo and behold, Jesus of Nazareth was the first name on the list.

Merry Christmas, indeed.


Blogger Patricia said...

I love this, I am a huge date person, birthdays are big with our family, we all get a cake and a dinner and it's special and it makes us feel special.

I constantly try to guess when people are born, their sign, and, oh, I was going to tell you this bizarre date coincidence. It's freaky deaky.

Our old neighbours father was born on my husband's birthday, and died on mine. It was the wildest thing, we were over there one night after a night that would be far too long of a story here, and our neighbour, his father had just died, it was around this time of year, anyway, we went to their place after our night for drinks and he showed me the memorial phamlete thing they had made for his father's service, and there the dates were, soooo creepy....everytime I try and think about what this means I get the creeps....and Merry Christmas to you! great post Jen..xoxoxo

Tue Apr 03, 01:58:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

here's to good babysitters, ours, the friend I told you about, is moving to Calgary, it was her birthday dinner yesterday.

Tue Apr 03, 01:59:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

That is really creepy! To see both of your dates on one card like that. When is your friend moving here? Do they have a house yet? The market is crazy as you probably know.

Tue Apr 03, 08:58:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

yes, they have a house, it's our dear friend who lived with us, she is a nanny from slovakia, such a sweetheart. She lived with the kids and I for four years and now has an open working permit, her employeer is moving to calgary so she's going as well, I am going to miss her terribly, she is part of our family, it feels like one of my kids is moving away. We will definetely be going out there to visit her!!!! and hopefully see you too!

Tue Apr 03, 10:54:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This was both fun and interesting to read, Jen. I used to place much more importance on birthdays and holidays than I do now. Part of it was some weird sort of hopefulness, I think. Maybe something magical would happen. Now, the magical can happen for me on any old day.

Wed Apr 04, 01:28:00 am GMT-4  

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