Though the liturgical calendar reminds us that it is Christmastide, a lovely 12-day season extending to Epiphany in January, you cannot live in this culture without experiencing how the air is let out of the holiday balloon on December 26. The Magi may not arrive in Bethlehem until January 6, but the culture abruptly drops the whole matter practically before Christmas Day is over.

I like the way W. H. Auden describes this moment in For the Time Being: “Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree. . . . Once again as in previous years we have seen the actual vision and failed / To do more than entertain it as an agreeable / Possibility.”


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