Upon which day of the week should Christmas fall?

by on December 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm in Philosophy, Religion, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

I say the goal is to minimize non-convexities, which in this context means avoiding the possibility of no mail or UPS deliveries for two days running.  That makes Saturday and Monday especially bad days to have Christmas.

When Christmas is on Wednesday, as it was this year, on that Wednesday you still can be reading the books which arrived on Tuesday and then a new lot comes on Thursday.  The public libraries also close for only one day, not two or three in a row.

Christmas on Wednesday also means that the roads are deserted for all the other weekdays, since many people end up leaving town for the entire week.  Then you can visit all those ethnic restaurants you wanted to get to in Gaithersburg or Mount Vernon without hassle.

And if you are taking a vacation abroad, and trying to use a limited number of vacation days, you certainly don’t want Christmas to fall on either a Saturday or a Sunday, which in essence wastes a granted day off.

You know what is also good about Christmas on Wednesday?  It means New Year’s Day will be on Wednesday too, double your pleasure double your fun.

Mark Thorson December 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Instead of moving Christmas, maybe we could move Saturday and Sunday.

Whatever December 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm

So this post’s goal is just to brag about how you’re always up to date on your reading, give or take a day, and that you read a lot, since you get several books every day, right?

Claudia December 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm

seriously, Whatever and mike, where’s your Christmas cheer? I read this post as TC is enjoying his Wednesday-centered holidays this year. No reason for brags or comparisons, to each his own.

Claudia December 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm

mike, I am grateful for many things … in this case, grateful for my sense of humor that lets me be amused at the inapplicable labels you toss my way. Still it’s not nice, it’s disrespectful, I actually don’t ‘need’ someone calling me such things. On that note, Noah Smith has an interesting post today about the inequality of respect: http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/redistribute-wealth-no-redistribute.html

prior probability December 28, 2013 at 12:15 am

Also, regardless of the number of books received, the more important question is what fraction of each book is read?

Beliavsky December 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I think most people prefer a 3-day weekend to a solitary holiday in the middle of the week. Holidays that are not defined by a particular day and month are often scheduled on Monday for that reason. Surely Mr. Cowen could order enough books ahead of time to avoid a reading drought caused by a 3-day weekend.

zbicyclist December 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Surely Mr Cowen has an Amazon account and a tablet.

Karl Rojeck December 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I stand with Ebeneezer Scrooge (at least the fellow to whom we are introduced early in the story) who would have answered that it makes no difference.

To quote: “…”A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge,…”.

AndrewL December 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Surely, if Jesus is the lord, then it cannot be out of the realm of possibility for Jesus to be born on the 4th Wednesday of December every year.

Mark Thorson December 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Presumably at the same time the date is changed, the holiday will be made more diverse and more inclusive. It won’t be called the politically incorrect “Christmas” anymore. It will be renamed “Santa Claus Day” or “Season’s Greetings Day”.

GiT December 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Would be appropriate. How many “Christians” actually take a break from their holiday gluttony to go to Christmas Mass? They’re probably orders of magnitude more likely to cut out for movie.

Willitts December 28, 2013 at 12:06 am

I went to mass twice this Christmas. Both were packed. I also went to a Christmas service and Mandela memorial from a Protestant pastor the Sunday before.

I know several Christian families who didn’t attend a service but had a religious celebration nonetheless.

I’m not going to say your statement was bigotted but it is certainly ill-informed.

GiT December 28, 2013 at 5:03 am

Many self professed Christians barely manage to get to church with any regularity throughout the year, but it is true that at the very least, on Christmas Eve and Christmas, about 50% can be bothered to manage it. Mostly on Christmas Eve though. Many churches just close on Christmas day.

Norman Pfyster December 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

For those of us who have to work around the holidays or use vacation time, Christmas (and New Year’s Day) on a Wednesday is the worst possible day.

Dismalist December 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

My wife, the doctor, has always been on night duty at Christmas since she was a resident many, many years ago. We celebrate Christmas on a day of her convenience. This year, we are celebrating on Monday, December 30.

A Definite Beta Guy December 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm

My future wife, the pharmacist, also had to work Christams this year. Holidays are not fun. Especially with all the snow the Midwest gets this year. On the other hand, it makes for fun fish-tailing on the expressways.

Julian December 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Doesn’t really work for the UK where we generally get 2 days holiday for Christmas, and if Xmas falls on a weekend the holidays carry over into the next week.

dearieme December 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

You’re speaking of England. In Scotland it’s New Year that gets two days.

I’d prefer that Christmas always fell on a Saturday and that I got an extra holiday in early June to compensate.

Richard December 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Actually, Scotland gets two days off for both Christmas and New Year.

In some companies, this means that the Scottish offices get more public holidays than the English ones.

dearieme January 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Jesus, it’s anti-traditional for Scotland even to get Xmas day off. To take Boxing Day too is utterly decadent.

“the Scottish offices get more public holidays than the English ones”: that’s a reversal from my youth, when Scottish businesses (and Scottish schools) worked a longer year than English.

david December 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

but if you have a real job it sucks

Brian Donohue December 28, 2013 at 9:52 am

Yup.

MD2 December 27, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Wait, did we abandon the war on Christmas?

Dave December 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm

What makes you think Tyler Cowen actually celebrates Christmas? Apparently he goes to ethnic restaurants on Christmas. That’s how Jews spend Christmas.

Bill December 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I think it should fall on the last Friday of September.

Anthony December 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Tuesday and Friday are the best days for Christmas. Most workplaces will give Christmas Eve off in either case, and if you don’t take the whole week off, there’s still enough of a work week to get something done.

When Christmas is on a Monday, you’re less likely to get an extra day off. When it’s on a Thursday, you’re likely to get the day after if, and have to work on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

While many employers will give the days of when Christmas is on Wednesday, there’s a coordination problem as vendors and customers may not all choose the same bridge to the weekend leaving it even harder to get something done in your two-day workweek.

RR' ( originally RR, but I notice someone else has usurped RR now) December 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

+1 , makes more sense than ” If its Wednesday , more deliveries are possible ” logic. Why wait for the last minute to have deliveries and face the DOWNS of UPS?

Mort Dubois December 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Well, if you run a factory, Christmas (and New Year’s) on Wednesday cripples two working weeks, with corresponding drop in output. In my case, the lost production changed the fourth quarter from profit to loss. So my workers won’t get their profit sharing bonus. But what they hey, no traffic on the way to the restaurant – I’m sure they are much happier with that benefit than a couple of thousand dollars.

chriss1519 December 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Well you were supposed to have relocated that production to Asia years ago.

Curt F. December 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Why so bitter? Why don’t you just refuse to allot time off for Christmas or New Year’s if it matters so much?

Doug M December 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Worst day for Christmas is on a Sunday… because, that means that New Years day is on a Sunday, and my employer uses the NYSE holiday calendar which says that if New Years day falls on a Sunday there will be no New Years holiday!

Dan Lavatan December 27, 2013 at 7:44 pm

If we have to have mail service, it should be once a week at most. UPS can deliver whenever it wants, and has been known to deliver on Christmas.

yo December 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm

The best day’s Sunday. Hands down. From both the employer and the max GDP perspective. Aren’t you an economist?

Is disaggregate the word I want December 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm

The post needs to be disaggregated for “subtle humor”. Was it even funnier in the original language, whatever that was?

Tyler Cowen December 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Thank you, glad you understood…!

mike December 27, 2013 at 10:48 pm

There is such a thing as too subtle. But I guess I might have underestimated your capacity for dry wit. I’m not a big fan of red wine, but… priors updated.

Ryan December 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm

As an employer, I offered to my staff a choice this year. Contrary to the contrarians here, they chose 25december.

Dave Barnes December 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Every “holiday” should be on a Monday or Friday. Except for Thanksgiving which gives some people 2 days off.
July 4th – No. First Monday in July.
Christmas – last Friday on December
New Years – 1st Friday after Christmas
Flag Day – 2nd Friday in June
Cinco de Mayo – first Friday in May
St Paddy’s Day – 3rd Monday in March

Anthony December 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

St. Patrick’s Day should be a Friday so people can nurse their hangovers at home, not at work.

Mark Thorson December 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Finish off that bottle and go to bed, please.

Nick_L December 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Well, if Christmas was only celebrated every leap year instead? I guess you’d still have to have the stimulus of boxing day sales. So, boxing day every year, but Christmas only once every four years. Would Tyrone agree?

Willitts December 28, 2013 at 12:13 am

Since none of us know the date Jesus was actually born, I see no reason why it couldn’t be on the same day of the same week each year.

As long as we are debating the day, maybe moving it to a month with more temperate weather would be nice. Of course, we have to accommodate both the northern and southern hemispheres. Italians don’t care and the current Pope probably likes a summer Christmas.

It also makes me wonder why Protestants stuck with a date chosen by the Holy Roman Empire.

GiT December 28, 2013 at 5:10 am

Well, the puritans didn’t stick with Christmas at all, because it was a bit of Anglican/Catholic excess and idolatry, or whatever. It was banned in Boston for a few decades, for example. Christmas was for Anglicans and Hussars.

GiT December 28, 2013 at 9:54 am

Ugh. Hessians, I meant. Though probably Hussars too.

Ed December 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

David Lindsay has been trying (and I think failing) to make the argument that there is nothing pagan about Christmas, and there is plenty of biblical evidence that Jesus was in fact born on December 25th.

His argument is basically based on the idea that the Annunciation has to take place on March 25th, and there is biblical evidence for that. Add nine months to March 25th, and you get December 25th.

Also the alternative dates put the nativity in the Spring, and you don’t want Christmas falling during Lent.

I think that doctrinally, the Feast of the Nativity by itself is just not that important a Christian holiday (compared to the quartet of Ash Wednesday – Good Friday – Easter – Pentecost). It may have been on December 25th anyway, but its importance was inflated to keep Christians away from the pagan winter solstice celebrations. There was a Protestant reaction against it. Later some Jews inflated the importance their winter holiday to compete with Christmas. But as with All Saints Day, the stronger earlier pagan celebrations keep re-emerging.

Willitts December 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I once heard of a television preacher saying that Jesus was ‘perfect’ and that his gestation was a ‘perfect nine months.’

I not only found it ridiculous that this pastor would know this, but also ridiculous in that human gestation is a random variable that isn’t even centered on exactly nine months.

I’m not sure why Christmas can’t coincide with Lent other than the inconvenience of having a ‘feast’ during a ‘fast.’ There is much better dating of Christ’s death because of the relationship to Passover.

Ed December 29, 2013 at 12:32 am

Christmas can’t coincide with Lent because of the inconvenience of having a “feast” during a “fast”. That is the entire reason.

The Bible gives no evidence of the month of of the birth of Jesus except some really weak evidence associated with the Annunciation. If you were a Christian cleric charged with assigning a date to the Feast of Nativity, given you had any calendar day to choose from, you would steer well clear of Lent by at least two months. You don’t want to go straight from celebrating the birth of Jesus straight into Lent, and you want to move the date past Pentecost (imagine how the cycle of lessons would be screwed up otherwise). You basically are confined to some time between July and December.

Myself, I would have chosen late September and the tradition would have been that Mary delivered a healthy baby after a miraculous six month gestation, but the temptation to make the date coincide with the winter solstice was understandably too great.

Ed December 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I have to admit I don’t get the joke.

People who work “normal” jobs hate Christmas falling on a Sunday (no day off) or on a Wednesday (no three day or four day weekend). Plus if Christmas and New Year’s fall on a Wednesday, it is harder to get things done that involves coordination with office workers, since enough will use vacation days on either side of the holiday to reduce the productivity of their office overall. Otherwise, everyone is in the office for at least three days that week and you can get things done and still get a three day or four day weekend.

But the problem is more due to New Year’s falling exactly one week after Christmas, which compounds the damage when Christmas falls at an awkward time. Fix New Year’s date elsewhere -and there are strong arguments to do this anyway- and Christmas falling on a Wednesday isn’t much more of a big deal than July 4th falling on a Wednesday.

KOJohnson January 8, 2014 at 6:36 am

When the Church was establishing the calendar, back in the fourth century — around the year 330 — St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote to Pope Julius I asking him to look at the census documents of Judea that had been kept by the imperial government and sent to Rome by Titus — Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, remember, to be enrolled in the census. Julius sent for the records yet again, and confirmed that the date is correct. St. Cyril’s letter still survives, as do even earlier texts by St. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, St. John Chrysostom, all mentioning those census documents and all confirming that Jesus of Nazareth was, indeed, born on the twenty-fifth of December.

Robb January 17, 2014 at 3:31 am

If Christmas falls on either a Friday or a Monday, we get a three day weekend.

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