Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Feast of Artists

In a letter of January 9, 1945, Evelyn Waugh wrote to his wife
 Have you ever considered how the Epiphany is the feast of artists. I thought so very strongly this year. After St Joseph and the angels and the shepherds and even the ox and the ass have had their share of the crib, twelve days later appears an exotic caravan with negro pages and ostrich plumes. The have come an enormous journey across a desert and the splendid gifts look much less splendid than they did when they were being packed in Babylon. The wise men committed ever sort of bêtise--even asking the way of Herod & provoking the massacre of the innocents--but they got there in the end and their gifts were accepted.
 I have always detested Christmas. Now I shall always celebrate Epiphany instead.
In fact, it seems to have been the secular trappings that bothered Waugh. On December 28, 1935, he wrote to Katherine Asquith that "It was decent to have Christmas without the Hitlerite adjuncts of yule logs and reindeer and Santa Claus and conifers."  In  1952 he wrote well of Christmas in Goa, where there was "No mistletoe or holly or Yule logs or Teutonic nonsense."


  1. The celebration of the birth seems to have been a scriptural and cultural afterthought. Perhaps Waugh got it right on this topic. Of course, he might have been engaging in tongue in cheek aloofness again.

    1. It is fair to say that Easter was regarded as the major feast of the Church. I don't know what Waugh's particular grudge against Christmas was. I suspect that it was the semi-Christian cultural baggage he enumerates in the other letters.