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  • Jan Flynn

In Praise of Lull Week

The truly most wonderful time of the year

Photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash

What to call the week between Christmas and New Year’s? Google the question and you’ll find many answers, none of which we seem to have settled on. It appears the Brits, or some of them anyway, call it Boxing Week. In my judgment that’s a faded extension of Boxing Day and lacks the imagination of other suggestions: Betwixtmas; Crimbo Limbo; the Merrineum; Prepiphany (that last one is mine).

Some Twitter wits (Twits?) dismiss this week as the doldrums, a period in which time loses meaning and we are left to drift aimlessly amidst balled-up wrapping paper, unassembled toys, and cookie crumbs until the last desperate blow-out of New Year’s Eve.

That is a feeble assertion which I dispute. Maybe as a kid I woke up cranky from a sugar hangover on December 26. But as the years (and decades) have passed, I have grown to savor this fleeting annual pause, the time of After All That and Not Yet That. The last week of the year is unique, set apart from the previous 51, and merits appreciation as such. Here’s just some of what there is to love about what I call Lull Week.

If your Christmas was a magical, fun-filled merriment, now you have lovely and irreplaceable memories. If it was a slow agony of family drama and awkward gifts, it’s over with. If Christmas is a triggering event, an annual assault on your hard-won composure from which you endeavor to hide, it’s safe to come out now.

If you’re the family elf, the kin-keeper, the one who’s in charge of managing the holiday as a multi-faceted event — one fraught with expectations and the potential for disasters ranging from delayed flights or a burned roast to someone testing COVID-positive on December 23 — then (1) you’re almost certainly a woman, and (2) you can take a deep breath. However you did it, it’s done.

This goes double if you’re a mom with school-age kids. It’s still winter break, after all. That means you’re out from under wrangling the kids to school in the mornings, overseeing their homework and projects, and driving them to the gym or field or pool (when I am queen, any coach who schedules practice between December 22 and January 2 will be shut in the locker room with all the dirty laundry).

With all the various winter band concerts and dance recitals and pageants done, you have a whole week to simply enjoy your kids. If you’re one of those energetic types who take their kids skiing for the week, then fine, you do you. But I suggest it’s a perfect time to watch a few movies, play some board games, order pizza, and just hang out with your offspring. How much of your time as a parent do you really get to do that?

For many folks with a nine-to-five job that rarely stays within its time boundaries, this week is usually slow. Half the office has taken vacay time, including the boss. If you’re still stuck at your desk, at least you can clear out your inbox before the onslaught gets up to full speed again next week. The fourth quarter is already a wrap, so you can relax about your year-end goals. Nobody really expects you to crush it during Lull Week.

Meanwhile, the decorations are still up. The evenings still sparkle with lights. The festive air remains present but toned down to a pleasant background volume. And except for a few wan after-Christmas sales or caterers negotiating lofty fees for last-minute New Years’ Eve spreads, nobody has really figured out how to commercialize this week. It’s not Black Friday, it’s not Cyber Monday, and we all understand that diets don’t start until after New Years’ Day.

January, in all its chilly asceticism, will be upon us all too soon. We’ll have a whole new year and whatever it brings to face as best we can. The news cycle will be churning out calamities and impending disasters with its customary relentlessness the moment the ball drops in Times Square. Until then, at least some of the media energy, social and otherwise, will be routed into 2021 retrospectives. Those may be depressing, but at least if we’re watching them, it means we’ve survived them.

I suggest avoiding them. The world is as close to a pause this week as it’s ever going to get, so take advantage. Follow nature’s cues and store your energy; you’ll need it later. Read the book you’ve been meaning to. Take a nap if you feel like it. Enjoy the interregnum.

Lull Week comes but once a year.

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