Happy Yule! One of the things my British colleagues find hard to believe is how Dickensian American employers are about days off around the holidays. Corporations tend to give one day for Christmas, and you can hear them grumbling, “I suppose you must have the whole day?” even as they give it. Christmas is, however, a season. The twelve days begin on the 25th, but Yule starts today. Yule marks the solstice—the fewest hours (minutes) of daylight occur today. Tomorrow daylight will start to grow longer, although it will take many days before we begin to notice any difference. I know this reflects a northern hemisphere bias, but having read about how less time is necessary for work, given technology, I wonder if there might not be a more equitable solution to this hemispheric focus.
What if we regularly gave generous time off around the holidays to recharge our batteries—renew our spirits—for both hemispheres? What if we gave our southern neighbors the benefit of, say, a week off in June, after the summer solstice? And what if we joined them as well? Only the most uninformed believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25. The best that those facile with calendars and history can do is that he was likely born in the spring, so why not split the difference and offer rest and respite in both December and June? Bean counters who equate every second in front of the screen as adding to the bottom line (a fable as sure as anything the brothers Grimm recorded) might need to be the ones leading the way. Rest is important. Time to think about something else.
Yule is an ancient celebration. We don’t know how far back in history it goes because there are no records of its earliest celebration. Before computers, before the industrial revolution, it was recognized that little truly productive outdoor work could be done during the winter months. Obviously we can’t sit around and do nothing all the way til March, but these very short days bridging the end and beginning of what we now recognize as the new year, are custom-made for reflection and renewal. Why not encourage it? Perhaps the bean counters could use it to read A Christmas Carol. Maybe they could set aside their abacuses and reflect on the wonder of the seasons that suggest to us that now is the time to rest and wait for the light to return. Let’s truly celebrate Yule.