Holy Days

Happy New Year! And feast of the Circumcision of our Lord. I tried to come up with resolutions, plans, plots, or at the very least specific desires for the coming year, but things are still very vague. I read a couple of First Things essays on the New Year as a holiday, one of which is R R Reno and strikingly curmudgeonly, and the other David B Hart — cheerfully contrarian. I like to celebrate New Year’s, at least a little, and am not sure why Reno thinks it so gloomily pagan — but then again, I mostly know people who celebrate it by playing board games, holding sparklers, and drinking fizzy fruit juice with perhaps a side of nachos — and other people who celebrate it by holding a vesperal Liturgy of St Basil the Great. I don’t suppose even Reno could find a disturbing layer of gloomy paganism therein.

They are, of course, both right that it’s still the feast of Christmas — and that as a society we don’t do a very good job of keeping that feast, since we’re already beginning to suffer a bit of holiday fatigue by the time Christmas comes around. Or so I hear. I’m not, but I’m living by myself and reserved anyway — but I had a cousin visiting, which was lovely and festive. It’s still Christmas until Theophany, but Protestants mostly don’t celebrate Theophany as a great feast, and so I’ll be working that day. That’s really too bad, since it is one of the best feasts of the year when kept properly — but more often than not our lives and communities and even churches are mostly not organized to keep feasts like that very well. We kept feasts much better in Santa Fe, which I miss dearly, but it’s not the sort of thing one can just up and create for oneself.

I hear a lot of stuff about our culture’s shocking neglect of holidays, and can see that a little — it bothered me as a Protestant — but that’s not what I actually encounter in those I know well. I actually encounter a year that’s dense with holy days and holidays, feasts and fasts, so that there’s hardly a day that’s not one or the other. There are probably more fasting feast days than there are “ordinary” days. Still, it’s a bit difficult to “live into” this calendar, especially when one is by oneself a lot; I’ve got a new year in September, another in January, overlapping fasting periods, feast days… there’s the Twelve Great Feasts, Pascha — things attached to Pascha, and attached to calendar dates, and then attached to days of the week that follow Pascha about.

Well, I suppose that my resolution — prayer? — for 2011 is something like that; not so much to do a bunch of new things, as to “live into” what I already have an am a part of somewhat better — like church, teaching, art, writing, and being a human person made by God.


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