As I’ve tried to express in many different ways, the Christmas season is very important to us, full of major and minor holidays and observances. One of the most insignificant of these is quickly becoming, for me, one of the most holy days of the season—holy not in any religious sense, but in the sense of personal value.
Today is known by some by the odd name: “The Secret of the Unhewn Stone.” This was the single blank day in the Celtic tree month calender tradition, an intercalary day to make the other months come out right within that culture’s time reckoning.
It is, in many ways, a “lost day,” the embodiment of the time-out-of-time concept of celebration, especially applicable to Christmas, that our European ancestors developed in the Middle Ages. It feels like waking up and thinking it’s time to rise, only to discover that it’s too early yet. The promise of the day is still ahead, but there’s time yet to enjoy a bit more sleep beforehand.
My siblings and I, probably like most kids from families who keep Christmas, used to call it “Christmas Eve Eve.” It is the moment when the anticipation builds but does not abate. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The tension’s unbearable—I hope it lasts!”
Sources say The Secret of the Unhewn Stone denotes the quality of potential in all things. Very much in keeping with that tradition, I’ve come to value today as one of the most potential-filled days of the year. For us it separates the ordinary “workaday” from the two holiest days of our year, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It separates the sacred from the profane, if you will.
As such, it has the potential to go either way. It is the last day to get the work of the homestead done to the point that we can let it slide while we focus on the next two days. If everything’s already in order (which it largely seems to be this year) it can become an extra day to devote to the next two. This is the day to do those things that I would do on Christmas Eve if I had the time. And, which ever way it swings, whether it’s a busy day to clear the schedule, or an early start on the focus of the season, it’s a calm before the joyful storm to come, a moment to pause and reflect before diving into the heart of the holiday. Even if it’s a day of frantically-executed, hard physical labor, it’s sweetened by the anticipation of the coming celebration. Anything accomplished today is free of obligation—whether for survival, profit, fun, or self improvement, it doesn’t encroach on any other duties or desires of Christmas. It is a blank slate.