We have now entered the twelve days of Christmas, the run-up to the feast of Epiphany (6th January) which in many cultures is the focus of the main celebration.
In Britain also it used to be climax of the Christmas period. In common with many non-Christian cultures, the midwinter and new year celebrations peaked in the early days of January, with Saturnalian and carnivalesque celebrations. Advent, by contrast, was a time of quiet reflection and meditative abstinence, in preparation for the Christmas festivities.
We now prefer to frontload Christmas, with the weeks before the 25th being the period of drunkenness (office parties) and celebration. The 25th is the culmination, and the days following are the hangover. In January it is now ‘traditional’ for people to enjoy a period of ascesis and abstinence – or detox – a dry month without alcohol, in part because they have no money, and in part because they have temporarily exhausted their appetite for excess.
I do not think I am alone in looking forward to a return to work, and a bit of focus, supported, perhaps, by a month without alcohol.