Is there anything more evil than Dry January as an unchristian abomination and a conspiracy against Baby Jesus? Unless it’s Veganuary. It’s part, you know, of the war against Christmas and indeed against a sane approach to the seasons. Look around you, folks: this is a bleak month if you cut out decorations, tinsel, candlelight, hot wine punch and saturated carbs, satsumas and pudding. Nature didn’t intend us to be giving things up at this time of year. Giving up drink when it’s grey and cold is a rubbish idea. And doing it is a modern way of screwing up the seasons by extending the New Year’s resolutions idea into New Year, New You programmes to do with diet…bang in the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas.
But the symptoms go further than bringing Lent forward by three months, into January. Discarded Christmas trees are all over the place, most of them a bit battered for having been up since the start of December. But the celebrations aren’t over, not properly, until this Saturday, the 6th, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. It’s still going on, and continues in a modified mode until Candlemas, 2 February, something that the atheist-cultural Christian Nigel Slater notes in his Christmas diaries.
So no, you don’t take your tree down yet, not until the 7th, unless you actually want to leave it up for the whole of January. The three kings are still on their way, and don’t arrive until Epiphany. The Christmas story is still being told, and with it the raft of days that follow Christmas. Michael Deacon in the Telegraph wrote a characteristically amusing piece a week ago taking exception to Twixmas, the time between Christmas and New Year: for him, Christmas ended on Boxing Day. He’s wrong, this once. And every other columnist is complaining about January as a rubbish month; no it’s not.
If you want to be really countercultural, do not go with the flow. Take as your inspiration a Victorian gastronomic guide mentioned in Nick Groom’s excellent book, The Seasons: W. Gunter’s The Confectioner’s Oracle (1830), which observes: ‘January is perhaps of all the months in the year the most favourable to enjoyments of the table: then it is that the gastrologist, vigorous, in high spirits, and with a voracious and insatiable appetite, is a most welcome guest… now it is [that] a householder must give good and frequent dinners.’
He was speaking for the old tradition of Christmas which is not just liturgically authentic but culturally and meteorologically sane. Keep the party going until Saturday, for God’s sake. And if you didn’t start so early, that wouldn’t sound like such a chore.
PS Right now, Cadbury’s are advertising their Easter Egg Hunt for a White Crème Egg. Tesco is stocking Easter eggs. Shouldn’t their shareholders sack the board that perpetuates this sort of abomination?