Christmas, in merry old England, used to be the day when bills were due. There are vestiges of that still. Just this past week, when my mind was on upcoming celebrations and family time, companies continue to email me their bills, reminding me that all celebrations are but temporary. Money’s the real thing, and it takes no holidays. While the holiday season may be subdued for some due to lack of travel, for me any day that I don’t need to leave the house is a good one. We had a pretty nasty patch of weather on Christmas Eve, and one might be tempted to say that the atmospheric conditions outside are frightful. There’s a coziness about staying indoors around the holidays. Besides, there’s a pandemic out there too.
We’ve got a quiet day planned at home with our usual traditions. We added a Yule log to our celebrations this year—much of what we now recognize as Christmas derived from the teutonic Yule. Otherwise, we are quiet people with rather simple tastes. Even if we can’t afford much, the holidays mean time off work. Time for those close to us without constantly having to auto-correct back to earning money at work. I frequently reflect on how distorted capitalism has made us. Our European colleagues have far more time off work than Americans do. They don’t seem to suffer for it. There’s not much light outside anyway, so why not hunker down a while? Reflect on what’s really important?
First thing this morning, after watering the tree, I fired up the computer to write a few words before the festivities began. The first two emails in my inbox were, as if on cue, bills. Computers have no idea this is a holiday, and our neighbor’s early morning car announcing its lock secured tells me that he’s just getting home from work. The fiction that we all have today off, as time home with family, plays out every year. Holidays are often the privilege of the affluent, which is why, I suppose, Saturnalia was marked by a reversal of roles for several days. Rome wasn’t exactly a friendly empire, but it wasn’t a capitalist one either. This Christmas I’m hoping that those who have to work today—healthcare workers, those who keep stores open for last-minute supplies, emergency workers of all kinds—will have adequate time for peace coming to them. Even non-essential work can be wearying. Let’s celebrate, thankful that we’ve survived these last few years at all. The bills will wait until tomorrow.