As I understand it, the mid- winter holiday was originally a practical response to the fact that, with the bad weather and short days, normal work was not possible.
So people made the best of it, staying where they were and enjoyed celebrations lasting for several days, ie the Twelve Days of Yule, later Christmas, culminating in Twelfth Night on 6 January. Even then, normal work was often deferred until after Hansel Monday, the first Monday after 1 January.
We have come a long way since then, have we not? A frenzy of shopping and preparation is essential to ensure that absolutely everything is ready for the big bang of 25, or even 24, December; anything happening after that is sub-optimal.
In addition, people expect to be able to travel hundreds, nay, thousands, of miles in the bleak mid-winter, and are surprised when airports are fog-bound, ferries cancelled, railway points frozen or roads closed.
The old name of the “daft days” seems highly appropriate.
From Boxing Day onwards one can hear folk asking each other: “Did you have a good Christmas?” implying that it is all over, with even the traditional Scottish celebration of New Year relegated to a poor second-best.
The customary response: “Very quiet, very quiet,” is uttered in a tone redolent of disappointment, as if the whole thing was an anti-climax.
Rather than putting all our festive eggs in the one basket of Christmas Day, perhaps we should consider spreading the emotional load over a few more days, and not clocking up quite so many miles. Then, we might actually benefit from the holiday.
Jane Ann Liston