Headmaster’s Thoughts – January 2007

January! Sales! Anything else?

The same shirts that sold in Brooks Brothers for forty-nine dollars in December sell in January for twenty-nine dollars. Same shirt, different time. Were we all paying too much before, or are they taking a financial hit now? How does the system work, and how much is the shirt worth?

January is when I think about these deep questions of life. Before Christmas, I bought a toy for my granddaughter from Amazon online. It was listed at sixty dollars and selling at one hundred and sixty dollars because of scarcity as it was “the toy to buy this year.” My granddaughter is not yet a year old. You are right, of course. I am the idiot! She could have waited until January (I don’t think she quite has the concept of Christmas down yet as her vocabulary is limited to “ya ya”). But I (you remember, the idiot!) had to buy it in time for “seasonal gift giving,” and this is someone (me) who does not believe in Christmas as a historical date of December 25.

How manipulated I feel. If I were smart, I would convince everyone that the Bible clearly could not be referring to December as the time of Christ’s birth. There are references to shepherds minding their sheep (spring or fall), etc., etc., that make it crystal clear that it was another season. Everyone agrees that early Christians intelligently took over the Roman festival of Saturnia as a time for the new festival of Christmas. No one suggests this means any disrespect to Christianity or the existence of Christ. But the religion would more quickly advance if an old holiday were turned into the new Christian celebration. Smart thinking… except for the shirts. If I were that smart, I would convince everyone I give gifts to (this includes the faculty) that we should give presents in January (pick a date!).

This August, department stores in my home town of London started to put up Christmas decorations. August! It is true that they don’t have Thanksgiving and that there is a dearth of holidays involving cards or presents in England after Bank Holiday Monday, which is the first Monday in August. So get out that holly and keep the shirts expensive!

Again in England, Harrods starts its sale at the end of December, and there is literally a scrum of people fighting to get their marked-down goods. (They gleefully show these fights every year on British TV.) The same people who bought shirts for more than forty-nine dollars (because every shirt in Harrods is more than forty-nine dollars) now fight each other to buy exactly the same shirt for less.

This is equally true, by the way, with Easter eggs. They get much cheaper after Easter. I agree there is far less disagreement over the date of the Crucifixion. The Biblical references are much more specific because of the Last Supper. But there is no reference to the Easter Bunny in the Bible and no date by which the chocolate bunny must be given. Again, let’s all agree to give Easter bunnies a week after Easter. Same chocolate, different time.

Actually, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did change for a few years the date of Thanksgiving, pushing it back one week to give more shopping time for the Christmas rush; after the war, it went back again to the last Thursday in November. Spoilsports in Congress! If we could change the dates, we would save a bundle. The cards, the trees—is there any mention in the Bible of pine trees decorated with electric lights? Oh, yes, we would save on the lights, too, chocolate bunnies, turkeys (have you noticed how much the price of turkeys goes up the week before Thanksgiving?), mistletoe (and where is the Biblical reference there?), dreidels (let’s be ecumenical here), and Father’s and Mother’s Day cards and gifts (if I want to give a gift to my parents why do I have to give it when they tell me to?).

I once again (see December’s Thoughts) showed this to Jayme, and she once again told me to lighten up and to wish everyone a Happy New Year on behalf of the school. She said that I should wish for the school community that “all your January sales purchases be cheap!” I think she is getting into a rut.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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