Neil McNicholas: Easter at Christmas? Present goes past in our rush to future

One of the exhibits which featured on the Antiques Roadshow programme dedicated to the Holcaust. It is  a long-lost ring that belonged to British missionary Jane Haining who died in Auschwitz.
One of the exhibits which featured on the Antiques Roadshow programme dedicated to the Holcaust. It is a long-lost ring that belonged to British missionary Jane Haining who died in Auschwitz.
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WHY are we in such a rush to the future? This evening as I write this, the BBC is screening a special Holocaust memorial edition of the Antiques Roadshow – which is fine, but the date is only January 15 and Holocaust Memorial Day isn’t until January 27.

Couldn’t the BBC have waited and screened the programme next Sunday instead? Even then it would have been five days early, but that would have been better than 12?

We have the same sort of thing with television presenters wearing poppies for weeks before Remembrance Sunday.

Why is that necessary? Why can’t they wait until a day or two beforehand given that it is a specific day that is being marked, not all the weeks before. It has become almost a race to see which broadcaster can be first to show off their “be-poppied” presenters, but by the time Remembrance Day arrives the visual impact is lost because we’ve been seeing poppies for weeks already.

This whole “rush to be first” is still a sore subject with the Christmas season having only just ended. For the Christian church, Christmas begins on December 25 and ends 12 days later.

For the High Street the commercial Christmas began in September and finished when everyone returned to work the day after Boxing Day. Deliberately starting Christmas three months before it is actually due is, of course, a cynical commercial ploy, but what it also does is cheapen the Christian festival by taking the shine off it by the time December 25th actually arrives.

I jokingly said to my congregation at Christmas that the moment the shops remove their Christmas stock, Valentine’s Day and then Easter stock will take its place. People chuckled but they knew it was true.

Even at Christmas you could buy hot cross buns in the supermarkets – in fact they are pretty much a year-round commodity. Thus the traditional spiced bun that was once only available to mark Good Friday (and carlins the week before) has now been robbed of its identity by being on sale all the time. But why does it have to be? Why can’t the bakers wait?

Speaking of whom, I’m sure the other day I spotted Easter bunny cakes and cookies for sale in one of our local bakers and we haven’t even begun Lent yet.When we do, there will still be six weeks to Easter – ample time in which to sell Easter-related items, but why wait if you can wring money out of people three months before? And, of course, Crème Eggs are another item that is available year round these days thus, once again, totally removing the association and the specialness they once had.

Once upon a time you could only buy fireworks a few weeks before Bonfire Night and they were such a chunk out of your pocket money that you wouldn’t dream of letting them off until the night itself. Now you can hear fireworks being let off for weeks leading up to November 5 – but why? Having spent money on fireworks unnecessarily early, why waste it by literally sending it up in smoke for no reason? Why can’t people have a little self-control and wait?

All of these things are examples of our breakneck rush to the future. For some reason we seem incapable of waiting for things to arrive in their own good time, and marking and celebrating them only when they do. Funny though how we don’t do that when it comes to birthdays!

Most people seem quite content to wait until the day arrives, often actually dreading it because it marks the passage of another year – yet one they don’t mind helping time along when it comes to starting Christmas in September, or Easter in January, or Bonfire Night in October.

Like a lot of other things it’s all down to a lack of personal discipline, a lack of patience and a lack of self-control.

We are like kids in a toy shop – if we see it (even in the distance) we have to have it (now) as if we might miss it or forget if we don’t grab it while we can. So, BBC, why wait for Holocaust Memorial Day to arrive if you can screen a related programme a week-and-a-half early, or, broadcasters in general, Remembrance Day if you can pin poppies on everyone a month before?

The rather obvious danger in constantly planning for the future is that we can miss out on the present. Today is the tomorrow we planned for yesterday, but we never really appreciate it when it arrives because we’re already planning for tomorrow! But then as tomorrow never comes, maybe we should celebrate it today, just in case – but please excuse me if I don’t.

Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.