- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

Now that our annual “Winter Festival” is pretty much behind us might it be time to contemplate a little calendar tweaking? Since the Christmas season has given way to the holiday season, which has given way to winter festivals, how about shoving the whole thing back a few weeks? Many problems could be solved in the process.

For starters, I’m a college teacher. We’re forever wrestling with a problem that finally has a solution. The problem is this: Fall semester never fits into the fall. To finish by, dare it be said, Christmas, we must start sometime around the mid-August. Who in the name of Horace Mann or James B. Conant wants to sit in a classroom when beaches, not to mention summer jobs, still beckon?

Football players, otherwise known as student-athletes, may be compelled to appear on campus in August, but just plain students shouldn’t have to. They should be able to wait until after Labor Day, when thoughts of classes and courses creep somewhere onto their radar screen. Then let the semester proceed, unsqueezed — and into early January.

Well, thanks to the continuing secularization of what was once the Christmas season, a solution is finally at hand. Since there’s nothing sacred, calendarwise, about a winter festival, why not give history and that calendar a little push? The more you think about this, the more problems it solves.

Let’s return to football for a minute. If classes can continue into January, so could the football season. Then the Winter Festival would coincide with football playoffs, both college and professional. College presidents now oppose a genuine playoff system for the sport, claiming oh so disingenuously their student-athletes would miss too much class time. The argument is spurious at best, but let’s concede the point. All the more reason to shut the colleges down for two or three weeks in middle-January. Then let the games and the festivals begin. Besides, what better reason could there be for a festival in the first place? With the entire country on hold there would be plenty of time for both college and professional playoffs to proceed daily — and simultaneously.

Admittedly, at this not quite post-Christian point in our national evolution, football isn’t everyone’s obsession. We’re getting there, to be sure. But we’re not quite there yet. Still, there’s something in this proposal for nearly everyone.

In the first place, we Northerners don’t need to have a winter festival in December when winter has barely begun. Better that we get our festival when those winter doldrums have hit with full force. February would probably be ideal, but January will do. It’s certainly an improvement over December.

Moreover, as calendar matters stand now, Dec. 25 is much too close to Thanksgiving. Having just gathered around grandmother’s turkey, families need a longer stretch before their next round of togetherness. Once again, February might be better, but January will simply have to do.

After all, when it comes to what truly matters, January just has to be designated as Winter Festival Month. And what might matter? Why, football, of course. On this score, there’s something in this for doldrums-free, but football-obsessed Southerners. If any section of the country has advanced further along the football-fanatic scale, it is the American South. So why not speed this evolutionary process generally?

This might create a crisis of sorts for our brethren to the South. After all, at this historical moment, their commitments to Christianity and football are equally strong. If forced to choose, which will win out? The dilemma is reminiscent of Jack Benny face-to-face with a robber demanding his money or his life: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

And while thinking, try singing the following to a more up-tempo version of “Silent Night”:

Raucous day, raucous night

All is wild, we’re in the fight

Oblong object, we worship you

Whatever our colors, whatever the hue

Cheer in earthly bliss, cheer in earthly bliss.

JOHN C. CHALBERG

Mr. Chalberg writes from Minnesota. He can be reached at: Chuck.Chalberg@normandale.edu.

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