What’s to hate about the due date? For most Americans, it’s a target to prepare for, as in a pregnant woman’s due date, or the time a bill must be paid.

But babies are notoriously oblivious of their due date, defying it consistently. And, although many Americans obsess with or despise the due date of their bills, it’s not such a big deal in some of our subcultures or other countries.

Having lived just off the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico for a few years way back when, we went to several Pow-wows. Unfamiliar with the Native culture, we arrived to the event just before it was scheduled to start. Then we waited. After a considerable time had passed and the Pow-wow didn’t start, we asked a Native friend “what’s up?” He replied, “oh, it’ll start when they feel it’s time.” Okay.

“Ritorno Subito,” is a sign found on most shop doors, possibly anytime but usually in the early afternoon, in many Italian towns. Return soon, supposes a wrinkle in time, with the word soon meaning “any length of time from right now to the twelfth of never,” according to Phil Doran in The Reluctant Tuscan.” Similarly, Carol Drinkwater, in The Olive Farm, says of Italian custom, “tomorrow does not necessarily mean tomorrow. It means at some time in the future beyond now. And the only way to know when that might be is to cheerfully wait and see.”

Time in Europe, even today, is an open-ended, flexible, multi-interpretable commodity. This conception of time is summed up by the Renaissance concept, festina tarde, or make haste slowly, mature haste. In other words, calm down. Contemporary French leader Francois Mitterrand has said, “Il faut donner du temps au temps,” “you have to give time to time.”

But when you think of poor Santa, seriously, how can you argue with the exactitude of the due date? All of those deliveries to be made by December 25th, certainly no later, nor earlier. Talk about, “on the dot!”

I would think we’re dealing with a pretty stressed-out Santa. How does he stay so jolly under all that pressure of the due date?

Maybe it’s the “reason for the season.” The Santa Claus tradition has been a multicultural phenomenon for decades and has spread worldwide, with many names and many variations on the theme. Most of the migration of the Santa story was initiated by the American stories of Washington Irving in his History of New York in 1809 and the publication of the 1823 poem in the Sentinel, “A Visit from St Nicholas” which became ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore.

The main takeaway from every Santa Claus tradition around the world is gift-giving or the returning of a kindness received. The “naughty or nice” criteria are found everywhere in the Santa stories. Often nice children initiate the kindness by filling their shoes, boots or stockings with fruit, vegetables or whatnot for Santa and his helpers, and he in return fills their boots with gifts.

In many stories around the world surrounding Father Christmas, one of his many names, there are quite a few malevolent characters included. These characters are intended to frighten the naughty out of us so that Kris Kringle or Babbo Natale can give us gifts for being good.

The whole, precisely German, Saint Nicholas thing is about the original gift to the world, via the birth of Christ. Speaking of the “reason for the season,” in my lengthy Christian tutelage, I was erroneously taught sometime that using the shortcut Xmas was comparable to leaving Christ out of Christmas. I’ve since learned that the X in that abbreviation is the Roman letter (chi) X which means Christ(os). So even though I feel a twinge of historical-guilt when I write the shortcut on my shopping list, i.e., “Xmas gift for ___”, I write it anyway, knowing I’m loyal to my faith.

Papa Noel holds the world record in frequent flier miles, topping out at 218 million miles each December 24th. And, lest you think you’ve got issues with too many calories consumed over the holidays, “Nicholas the Wonderworker,” must finesse his intersession and obtain a few miracles in order to burn off the 374 billion calories he consumes at the hands of generous boys and girls leaving cookies for him as their thank you gift for his kindness.

Or, my alternate theory of Christkindl’s after-holiday diet is this. El Ninito Dios and his travel companions, many of whom are pack animals: reindeer, donkeys, goats, horses, camels, and others, fill themselves and the empty return-sleigh with all those cookies, carrots, vegetables, fruit and other goodies, to share all year long with Mrs. Claus as household steward, many elf-workers, and others in their North Pole neighborhood. After all, their whole abode is a massive freezer.

Well, I for one am grateful that Saint Nicholas takes the December 25 due date seriously. Happy Xmas one and all. May your hearts be blessed.

Bev Barton LeVan of Everett is a personal essay writer and blogger for her website www.deepthoughtsonrandomstuff.com.

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