The proximity of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to the celebration of the new year is one of those happy accidents that has quite a few fringe benefits.
I’m not referring to the time off most workers get or even the festive nature of the holiday season.
There is a certain ritual of renewal ingrained in the period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
Thanksgiving has become less of a time to remember the travails of the Pilgrims than a sort of two-minute warning prior to the end of the year.
At this two-minute warning, as in many professional football games, the importance of intelligent time management is thrust upon us.
We know we have a certain amount of time to get things accomplished that we did not get done in the prior 10 1/2 months.
While chewing our turkey, we can also look back briefly on all that we did get done in the previous months and be grateful for that.
After Thanksgiving, we are inundated with singular representations of two seemingly contradictory messages.
One is, “Buy everything you can find because you are not cool if you don’t have this or that material possession.”
The other is, “Stick a crowbar in your wallet and give to all these charitable causes because you are not compassionate if you fail to care.”
And let us not forget, at this special time of year, the carefully wrapped packages foisted on us by the mass media, those heartwarming stories of love and loss designed to exploit the warmth of the season by calculating television consultants who have ratings diaries where their hearts ought to be.
I’m not a total Scrooge.
For the true warmth of the season, I will stick with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is in the public domain, and midnight mass from the Vatican, which was imbued with a wonderful freshness this year in the person of Pope Francis.
Now that the plastic holly has been tucked back into its cardboard box and stored in the attic, basement or closet, it is time to bid the old year a fond farewell.
The holiday season is rather like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
At Mardi Gras, the celebrants prepare for months for a massive party where almost anything goes, especially on Bourbon Street.
They work as hard and fuss as much over the food, the decorations and the booze as we do over the food, holiday decorations and the booze around this time of year.
After the beads and the tourists have been swept off the pavement, Lent kicks in and the rowdy revelers promise to be good little boys and girls — at least until after Easter.
After all, a young person’s fancy turns to shedding clothes in the spring and summer.
It is the same with the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the new year.
After that one last big blast on New Year’s Eve, we sober up in the cold glare of winter and try, with or without making resolutions, to renew ourselves and be better people in the future.
At least, until April 15 rolls around.