The observation was made several times in the last decade or so, first with cardiac disease—the so-called Merry Christmas Coronary (here and here)—and then with other diseases, with increasingly incontrovertible data. Scrooge rules. The one that clinched it was carried out by a team of sociologists in balmy, non-Christmas-y La Jolla, Calif.: “Christmas and New Year as Risk Factors for Death.” They took 25 years of death certificates (about 57 million deaths) and plotted out each dead-on-arrival or died-in the-emergency-room death, according to the Julian day-at-a-time calendar. According to their way of slicing up the bad news, thousands more people over the years have died on these two holidays than on any other day. (The graphs tell the story quickly.) That’s a lot of bereft holiday families.

Data-based observations of this sort invariably bring out the theorists, each with his own axe to grind or idea to sell, or to confidently proclaim that this is yet another example of [hare-brained theory here] in action…

Which leaves this: what about the possibility that American health care doesn’t suck? And that people on Christmas are sick, but opt to not call their doctor or visit the ER because it’s Christmas and they don’t want to bother anyone? (Or the doc is covered by someone who, in turn, is covered by someone else, who is maybe the same cousin with the MacArthur grant?) Anyone who has been in emergency rooms knows Christmas is just about always the quietest day of the year. And anyone caring for someone with chest pain knows the critical nature of “door-to-balloon time.” This refers to the interval when a person with a possible heart attack first arrives in the emergency room until he is in the cardiac catheterization laboratory to have the salutary balloon inserted to pop open the affected artery.