Thursday, December 23, 2010

Culture Shock 12.23.10: Take Christmas Eve Eve to heart

Time is almost up, because today is Christmas Eve Eve.

It's not an official holiday. It's not even a semi-official holiday like Christmas Eve or Groundhog Day.

But lots of people observe it — unknowingly — nevertheless.

Unsurprisingly, Dec. 23 — or Christmas Eve Eve, as I like to call it — is one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season, easily outperforming the day that has traditionally held the title of busiest shopping day, the day after Thanksgiving, or "Black Friday."

According to the myth-busting website, Black Friday hasn't done much in recent years to deserve its reputation. Between 1993 and 2002, for example, the day after Thanksgiving placed no better than No. 4 and as low as eighth on the list of busiest Christmas shopping days. Christmas Eve Eve, meanwhile, was the busiest shopping day of the year four times during the same period: 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2000.

The real pattern, according to Snopes, is the final Saturday before Christmas usually claims the top spot, which makes sense. However, Thursdays and Fridays hold their own when they fall on Christmas Eve Eve, like this year.

When I was a child, I thought I was the one who first came up with calling Dec. 23 "Christmas Eve Eve." It seemed totally natural and pure genius. Plus, I'd never heard anyone use the term before.

Unfortunately, since then, I've learned other people have had the same idea. As with most of my best ideas, I eventually found out that someone else had managed to steal it before I'd even thought of it. I blame time-traveling thieves. (Sure enough, someone else also already thought up time-traveling thieves. Is nothing safe?)

While Christmas Eve Eve still lacks the respect of mainstream lexicographers, it does merit an entry in that most indispensable of dictionaries in the 21st century, the Urban Dictionary, online at Go there, and you'll find this straightforward definition of Christmas Eve Eve: "The day before Christmas Eve, 2 days before Christmas." You'll also see it used in a sentence: "Stay away from the malls on Christmas Eve Eve."

Now, this being the Urban Dictionary, you'll also find some — how to put it? — unconventional and highly suspect definitions. For example: "an attractive woman you meet on the first pages of the Bible and on Christmas Eve; some people have got the daft idea that she's Father Christmas' niece."

OK, I have no idea what that means. However the terms "daft" and "Father Christmas" indicate it's possibly some odd British usage, like how the British insist on calling french fries "chips" and potato chips "crisps," or like how they call apartments "flats" and automobile trunks "boots." Really, there is no excuse for this. As long as the English have been speaking English, you'd think they'd be better at it.

Christmas Eve Eve has, over the years, become the true Christmas Eve.

That's because Christmas Eve has halfway joined with Christmas Day to become a kind of super-sized Christmas Day that lasts at least 30 hours. Like the Christmas shopping season, Christmas Day itself is expanding to fill more of the calendar.

By sundown on Christmas Eve, everything is already closed and everyone has finished their shopping — unless they're buying a tacky hat for Cousin Earl at the truck stop. Some families even open gifts on Christmas Eve because they have to hit the road to Grandma's house first thing in the morning. All of that, for a lot people, makes Christmas Eve Eve the real day for last-minute shopping and children's breathless anticipation.

Yes, Christmas Eve Eve even has its own song, titled "Christmas Eve Eve," performed by the musical duo of Paul and Storm, whom I found on YouTube just after I wrote the above paragraph. Also, Paul and Storm had the idea of comparing Christmas Eve Eve to Groundhog Day before I did. (Will this temporal thievery never end?) It's a fun little song, and it should be because it's a lot like "Dead" by They Might Be Giants, which is not the greatest song in the world, but it is close enough that Tenacious D might have had it in mind when they wrote their song "Tribute."

Or maybe not.

So, here's to Christmas Eve Eve. Thankfully, you come only once a year.

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