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Christmas: Stores start early, finish early

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Column by Jim Clark

If you see a dozen or so drummers wandering the streets, you might want to see if you can lend them a hand. After all, recent events have left them trying to figure out whether the beat goes on.

It’s very simple … the large retail stores, particularly the chains, have determined that the 12 days of Christmas no longer exist. They are now pretty much just the weeks before Christmas, and that’s it.

Let’s face it, the retailers make a sharp turn out of the Christmas season as soon as they can, leaving those of us who are used to tradition behind in a cloud of dust.

Twelve drummers drumming is the 12th day in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” also known by many as “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.” Its roots go way back before my time as a youngster, when Christmas was a 12-day celebration which ended on Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, remembering the Magi who came to Bethlehem and were warned not to tell Herod where to find the Christ Child. The famous song “We Three Kings of Orient Are” refers to this trio, who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to present to the child, or so the legend goes.

But nowadays, the 12th day doesn’t arrive until about a week after the stores want us to stop thinking about Christmas and start showing interest in something else.

Of course, the stores want us to start thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving, but that’s a subject for another column.

Even, sadly, the Catholic Church moves the feast around to a Sunday, so this past weekend we marked the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 3. One priest said it was moved because the church considered it so important it had to be on a Sunday.

Unfortunately, using that logic, shouldn’t Christmas be on a Sunday every year? Isn’t it more important than Epiphany?

In some places, Jan. 6 is called “little Christmas.” Obviously, a major retailer didn’t give that name to that date.

By the way, the stores will soon have you shopping for other holiday items. Ash Wednesday is Feb. 10 which means Easter is early this year, on March 27. Does anyone buy Easter bonnets anymore?

Meanwhile, as you get ready for the next religious holiday, please give a message to any partridge you might run into. Tell him to come to my house, where he can take up residence in my tree.

From his perch, he can watch for the 2 turtle doves, 3 French hens, 4 calling birds, 5 gold rings, 6 geese-a-laying, 7 swans-a-swimming, 8 maids-a-milking, 9 ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping and 11 pipers piping.

That way, when the 12 drummers show up on Epiphany, they’ll know they’re in the right place. My tree stays up until Jan. 6.

Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and South Marion Citizen in Ocala.