Farmers always had to work, so few people have ever gotten “work free” holy days. Still, people in Christian nations have traditionally been eager to make the central activity of their lives church, family, and feasting.
We can work with zeal, but never with a commitment so absolute that when the Church says “party” we refuse.
The problem is that few of us have been trained in how to party and so we do it badly. Many Americans have resources that can produce great pleasure, but we do not use them.
Here are three ideas for an evening at the end of the shortest work day you can manage during the Feast.
Listen to the Messiah together. Don’t talk, don’t let anything interrupt. Go to a concert in your house. On another evening, get a series of Christmas carols and sing them together.
We have a great deal of music available to us, but we listen to it alone. Feel free to cheer, whistle, and stamp, but let the music rule.
Bing Crosby, the greatest American popular entertainer, always tried to encourage family “sing along” time on his Christmas radio shows. He knew music was too important to be left to the professionals.
Get words and do your best to make music!
Watch Twelfth Night as a family.
Find a version of Shakespeare’s play and watch it like a family. Dress up. If you cannot find Twelfth Night watch some other Shakespeare.
At the end applaud (or not) and discuss as a group. If you have watched Twelfth Night, then ask this question: how does the play relate (or does it?) to the end of Christmas and the coming feast of Epiphany. Our forefathers knew that intellectual pleasure combined with delicious food was a good way to have a good time.Don’t worry about right answers. Talk.
Spend an evening acting.
The Victorians and Edwardians would stage family theatricals that would included makeup, costumes, sets, and original words. If you were at the Charles Dickens’ house this could be very awesome indeed. Most of us aren’t up to that much effort, but do what you can. As a little boy, my cousins and I would act out “plays” I would write. We created sets, costumes, and rehearsed. We once had the birth of “King Arthur” with a staggering plot twist: the baby was a girl!
If all this seems hard, have everyone read a play together off a website. Shakespeare’s As You Like It is short and fun read.
This can be board games or video games . . . but make sure it is a group activity. Card playing is a wonderful way to do something while talking. Uno works, but so does Hearts. If a Board game only allows for “four” and you have more (as we always do), then play in teams.
It is time for those of us who never cook to make something in the kitchen. There are always Rice Krispy treats. If I can make them, so you can you. I am, after all, the one who once exploded a grape juice concentrate all over a kitchen. Do not try that. Food made by the non-cook in the family will always taste better . . . even when it does not. Sympathy taste buds are real.
Make your evenings special, even when you have to go to work. Let’s keep on keeping the feast!