TORONTO, ONTARIO - At midnight, the eleventh month of the year comes to an end and the twelfth begins. That's my way of avoiding saying that there are barely over three weeks to a certain major winter holiday that tends to involve a lot of shopping. I wasn't trying to avoid writing "Christmas," but when one grows up in secular greater Seattle, one by necessity learns the multitude of ways to avoid making any references that could be construed as religious.
Just because there are only "giving" and "holiday" and not "Christmas" trees around Seattle (at least if taxpayer money is in any way involved) doesn't mean that people take the winter holiday any less seriously. The "shopping season" begins abruptly the day after US Thanksgiving with stores opening--well, in recent years 5 am has seemed late with some opening at midnight for overnight bargain hunters. Holiday cultural events, office parties, and other time sinks make it difficult to work in all the shopping and preparation right through to the family vacations at the end of the month.
Once upon a time--when I was an undergraduate--my routine was to start on holiday cards the Saturday after Thanksgiving by writing up a letter, and getting them all mailed by the middle of the following week, the first weekend of December at the very latest. That was quite a bit easier when my address book was smaller.
By those standards, I'm already behind. I haven't mailed a single card. I just received my custom-made order today, and even if I had them earlier, I'm not prepared with a letter or even finished e-mailing people for address changes. My European friends are just going to have to live with late cards.
I'm not going to catch up. There's too much to do--special events to attend and cover on this blog, parties to attend, and shopping to do, never mind that normal life activities don't stop for the month of December. Most years this blog has to go silent for a few days while I try to catch up in mailing cards. This year will likely be no different.
Some people send new year's cards instead of Christmas cards. I can respect that, but on the other hand I rather like being done with the process before the celebrations for the same reason that I preferred academic schedules with finals before the holidays to the Harvard-style schedule with finals in January. A busy December is a great excuse for relaxation during the last week of the year and, for that matter, well into January.
In the end, it's that tradition of trying to do everything in December and doing almost nothing in January, not any particular religious, spiritual, or other cultural tradition, which I observe and intend to keep respecting for the foreseeable future.