One of the great tragedies in modern life is that we tend to rush everything. Even before Thanksgiving, stores have Christmas decorations up and are hawking their wares with a countdown until Christmas. And then, on December 26, you would think that Christmas had ended a month ago. I took my mother to do some shopping the other day and the only mention of the season was from one clerk who wished us a Happy New Year.
When I wished people a "Merry Christmas", they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. "Doesn't this guy realize that Christmas was two days ago!" they seemed to be thinking.
I for one am glad that the Church spreads out our celebration of Christmas Day over an Octave (8 days), and that we extend the Christmas Season until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (this year celebrated on January 9). I just wish that more people would embrace this idea and keep the joy and good wishes for the entire time. I mean, how amazing is it that God decided to "take on flesh" and experience the full range of humanity in the person of Jesus Christ! The celebration of the birth of the Son of God is a recognition that our God knows firsthand what it is like to experience joy, sorrow, triumph, disgrace, pleasure, pain and the entire spectrum of emotional and physical experiences as a human being. The only human experience that Jesus never had was the shame that comes from sin, since He always did the will of the Father.
I for one am determined to keep the spirit of Christmas alive until the season is officially over, and I invite you to join me. Whenever you go to a store, see friends, or encounter anyone in any circumstance, take the opportunity to wish them a "Merry Christmas". If they look at you like you are a little crazy, oh well - there are far worse reasons to be thought of as crazy. And if they ask why you are still wishing people Merry Christmas, explain that "we Catholics celebrate Christmas all the way up until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord". They may still think you are crazy, but at least they will know you are not alone! Don't give in to the "get it over with" mentality. Embrace the true spirit of the season. Merry Christmas, everybody.