Today is Black Friday, which means that many Americans who spent yesterday acknowledging how thankful they are will now act like greedy consumers by spending a whole day obsessing over the acquisition of material objects. I realize that I’m being unnecessarily cynical in saying that; there’s nothing immoral about choosing to go shopping on a certain day because of the fact that most stores offer excellent bargains on that day. In fact, I think that the day after Thanksgiving is a good day for the Christmas shopping season to begin in earnest. My objection to the shopping tradition of Black Friday is that it sometimes seems to overshadow Thanksgiving, which doesn’t make any sense. Whether you consider Black Friday shopping to be a special occasion in its own right or a preparation for Christmas, there’s no reason that it should be more noteworthy and facebook-status-worthy than the major holiday the day before.

With that being said, it is now officially getting close to Christmastime. Unlike Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving is a holiday that really only lasts for a day, or for the weekend at most. Christmas, on the other hand, is a momentous occasion that deserves weeks of preparations, followed by weeks of celebration. I’ve never been in favor of extremely early Christmas decorating or of Christmas store displays in October, but life is too short and years are too long to restrict Christmas to just a few days in December. Personally, I think that it’s cool to observe Christmas in one way or another year round. After all, Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation, and Jesus was incarnate for more than a few days.

But, of course, a holiday celebration isn’t so special if it literally lasts all year. The twenty-fifth of December is still the apex and zenith of all Christmasness. And the twelve days of Christmas are still to be considered more Christmasy than, for example, a random day in the middle of the spring. I therefore propose the point of view that it’s always Christmas, but some times of year are more Christmas than others. According to this way of looking at the calendar, I have helpfully constructed the following diagram that demonstrates the spectrum of Christmasness. I have thus divided the year into seven distinct phases of Christmas, although it should be noted that some of these, particularly the Advent season, also contain a subspectrum of Christmasness according to the exact day or week within the phase. Like most cool things, this diagram has been color-coded. It has not, however, been drawn to scale, nor has it been drawn neatly, for the simple reason that I am lazy.

As seen straight-on

Angled to emphasize the right-hand side

Dark green: The period of time that begins at about sunset on December 24 and ends in the early-to-mid afternoon on December 25

Red: The range of days that begins on December 25 and extends to January 6, that is to say, the twelve days of Christmas plus Epiphany Day


Dark Blue: The period of time before Christmas that includes four Sundays and the intervening weekdays and Saturdays, that is to say, the season of Advent

Orange: The period of time beginning a few days before Thanksgiving and extending to the first Sunday of Advent

Light Blue: The range of weeks between the beginning of Epiphany and the beginning of Lent, which occurs at different times in different years, with the result that this phase varies in length from year to year

Purple:  A few short phases, usually located in the mid-to-late summer or sometime in October, in which one inexplicably finds oneself desiring to listen to Christmas music, wishing it would snow, and thinking it would be cool to put Christmas lights in one’s room

Light Green: The majority of the time of year between the beginning of Lent and the approach of Thanksgiving