Post Christmas Blues?
January 10, 2018

“Origen contended that the naming of specific holy days was done only for the sake of the ‘unitiated’ and ‘beginners’ who were not yet capable of celebrating the ‘eternal festival’.”
Josef Pieper, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity

I always find re-entry a bit difficult. It’s not that the days of Christmas are stress-free, or necessarily just as we wanted them to be.

But in any case we were together. We set aside, with reasonable success, the cares of day to day life. We focused on one another, and on truths that give anchor and direction to our lives. And we sat around a beautiful tree, and sang beautiful songs together. Just because.

Now I’m behind in most everything. The same problems and cares are still pressing at the door. The children have a lot of homework. And it’s been cold. In fact, frigid. Then, of course, there’s taking the down the tree—to make it really sink in.

But Pieper reminds us of a remarkable reality. True feast days are particular times set aside to make explicit what is always implicit. The reasons to make merry are always in place. We ‘beginners’ have to practice, year after year, taking particular times to focus on those reasons, to try to see them and feel them all the more.

A truly Merry Christmas is one in which we take a couple more steps toward being capable of celebrating a festival without end. And the ordinary travails of day to day life are themselves like festive trimmings. They too can prepare us, if we have eyes to see, to take part in unending festivity. So in a sense Christmas isn’t over, and it never need be.

~ ~ ~

Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was a German philosopher in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many of his works have been translated into English and are still in print, including Leisure the Basis of Culture, Happiness and Contemplation, A Theory of Festivity, and The Four Cardinal Virtues, to name a few.

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  1. The answer is to keep it all going till February 2nd when you’re actually getting sick of the decorations, and joy and want to welcome Lenten practices! God bless you.

    1. That certainly is one approach. 🙂 God bless you too.

    2. A practical help in taking that approach: find yourself a concolor fir! They smell of pine and oranges, and the needles stay bound fast to the branches for weeks! Ours is still holding strong. Two weeks til the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord!

  2. John, you are waxing quite poetic and the photo adds a thousand words of pathos…But all that you say is true and beautiful, and I love the bit about our ordinary travails being like festive trimmings. It’s the very little way, and we are blessed to walk upon it between “Seasons,” as well as in them.

    The Christmas season brought me a surprising gift – I’ve followed your example and started a blog too . . . in my case, I’m focusing on Servant of God Marcel Van, a spiritual little brother of St. Therese. His Vietnamese writings were first translated into French, and more recently into English – and I find in his books, especially “Conversations,” a wonderful interpretation of St. Therese’s spiritual childhood that I call “The Little Way for Dummies!” Not to insult anyone, but sometimes we seem so very, very little! If you or your readers are interested, you can find more at

    Meanwhile, a happy New Year to you and yours, with much love and gratitude for the delightful image of your dear family singing around the tree! Praise God who is so good!

    1. Dear Suzie,
      Thank you so much for this note! Congratulations on your new blog. It looks absolutely fantastic. I am very glad to be introduced to Marcel Van, and I’m also quite excited about the book lists you have put up. I’m sure I’ll be utilizing your resources quite a bit. Thank you already for all your work there!
      Love and blessing to your whole family.

  3. Dr. Cuddeback,
    Today my son put the Christmas decorations under the house and I recalled Anne’s moaning and sadness when the Christmas tree was hauled out the door after the Feast of the Epiphany. I began to reflect on the sadness I felt at the passing of this season when I came across your post! I have Piepers book sitting on my shelf and now I plan to read it! Thank you for the great reminder that Christmas is never over! Ah such great hope!
    Many blessings to you and your family!
    Becky Wysoski

    1. Becky,
      Thanks for sharing this. We have just taken ours down too. We did our best to make a family event of putting the decorations away, so the burden didn’t fall too heavily on anyone, and we all could be together with the tree one more time. My wife suggested that we thank God one more time for the tree and the source of blessing that it was for us. Blessings to you all too!