Skip to comments.That incredible shrinking Advent-Christmas season
Posted on 11/30/2005 12:38:20 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
That incredible shrinking Advent-Christmas season
Twenty-one years in Washington, D.C., should have rendered me impervious to the bizarre. But I confess to having been taken aback in mid-October when, inside a grocery where I was vainly searching for some decent Peccorino Romano, I saw an enormous Christmas display with ersatz snow and all the trimmings. It was bad enough when stores started putting out the Christmas decorations (or, as they now say, holiday decorations) a nanosecond after sweeping their shelves of leftover candy corn and other Halloween goodies beloved of dentists with medical school bills to pay. But Santa and the elves two weeks before Halloween?
It works the same way at the other end, so to speak. The estimable Father John Jay Hughes reports that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a feature article last December 26 on how to disassemble and store Christmas decorations. As Father Hughes commented, In my childhood, thanks to my Anglican priest-father, we were never permitted to put up the tree or any Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. And once up, they stayed there until at least the Octave of Epiphany (which, Id perhaps better note, would be January 13 if, that is, the bishops hadnt moved Epiphany from its proper date to a nearby Sunday, a folly surpassed only by the biblical absurdity of Ascension Thursday Sunday).
Fifteen years of intense involvement with Poles and Poland has given me an even more capacious view of the Christmas season. In Poland, the decorations stay up, the Christmas carols are sung, and the celebration of the Incarnation continues until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas. Thats the way it was in the papal apartment in Rome between 1978 and 2004. And thats the way it will be in Polands intact Catholic culture this year.
Railing against secular Americas calendrical translation of the Christmas season into a period between mid-October and 8 a.m. December 26 (or whenever the post-Christmas sales start at the malls) is of less importance, though, than trying to ensure that the Churchs Advent and Christmas seasons are not temporally hijacked by the surrounding culture. If memory serves, Advent got exceedingly short shrift last year, being essentially just three weeks long: which meant twenty-five percent less time to reflect on the two great themes of that wonderful time the Second Coming and the Incarnation. Worse yet, more and more Catholic churches seemed to be succumbing to the secular redefinition of the seasons by putting up Christmas decorations during the third or even second week of Advent. The truncation was just as bad at the far end, what with the transfer of Epiphany to Sunday, January 2.
We need more Advent and Christmas, not less but we need them at the proper time, which is the Churchs time, not Macys time or Wal-Marts time. Taking Advent seriously would be a good beginning. The widespread use of Advent wreathes in churches is a welcome development. Even more welcome would be pastors actively encouraging every Catholic family to have an Advent wreath in their home, to learn the rituals of lighting it, and to pray together at the nightly lighting of the wreath during one of the most spiritually rich seasons of the Churchs year of grace.
Reconstituting the liturgical calendar would also help. The Solemnity of the Epiphany belongs on January 6, period. Restoring Epiphany to its proper place would do justice to a generally neglected feast; in a nifty countercultural move, it would also stretch the Christmas season back to its proper length. And while were on the Epiphany, why not stretch it out, too? Bringing back, say, three Sundays After Epiphany would give the Church a greater opportunity to pray over the mission-to-the-nations, one of the great themes embedded in the Lords epiphany. Whats the rush to get to Ordinary Time (an ill-advised moniker if ever there was one)? Wouldnt it be spiritually beneficial to spend more time in that extraordinary time marked by Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany?
Lets be different. Lets let liturgical time define this unique time of the year.
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigels column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.
Good article. Thank you.
An interesting article...when I was growing up, the Christmas tree went up the week before Christmas, and came down on Jan. 2nd or 3rd or so...that was my moms way...
When I first married, we put the tree up usually about the second week of Dec. and my husband, said that we should leave the tree up until Jan. 8th or so, relying on his grandmothers Catholic tradition...
Nowdays, we put our many Christmas trees up beginning the first week in Dec. and leave them up through all of January...thats just the way we like to do it...
In my neighborhood, there are two houses, which put on some very spectacular Christmas decorations in their front yards...they are just across the street from one another...somehow it looks like a friendly little competition...they have so many decorations out front, that we have taken to calling them 'House a'fire 1' and 'House a'fire 2'....because they are so very bright, they do look as if those houses are on fire...they both put their decorations up the week before Thanksgiving, ,and then rip them all down the day after Christmas...
Personally I hate to see the Christmas decorations come out as soon as the Halloween decos and candies are taken of the shelf...I am a senior, so I just remember the times, when the day before Thanksgiving, the stores were all in their fall attire...then on Wed before Thanksgiving, and probably on Thanksgiving itself, the store employees worked overtime, to change their store from its usual look to a Christmas wonderland...it happened overnite, and to a child, it seemed like magic, the magical wonder the comes at Christmastime...
But I see, traditions change, and now the Christmas decorations come out sooner and sooner...I have been to Costco in mid-August, and already see the Christmas decorations...I suppose in time, you will be able to buy your July 4th decos, along with your Christmas decorations...
This liturgical Lutheran pastor also says:
I'm preaching at a midweek Advent Vespers tonight. Many Lutheran churches still have special Wednesday evening services during Advent, which helps.
But it's still a battle, even with faithful church members to let Advent be Advent and Christmas (all 12 days of it) be Christmas.
Services on Christmas Day--one of the three chief festivals of the church year--are usually sparsely attended. Even Christmas Eve, which used to be packed everywhere, now doesn't even bring out all the "twice-a-year Christians."
Epiphany festival services on January 6, which used to be fairly common in Lutheran churches, have, sad to say, fallen on hard times and now are hard to find.
I like the title. I was already planning to use a similar title for my Bible class next week . . .
"Advent: Infrequently Asked Questions about the Squeezed-out Season"
The church, unlike the culture, says don't jump into Christmas quite yet. It is the season of Advent not Christmas. Advent is about getting ready; about patience; about finding God in the most unexpected places. Advent is
counter-cultural. The culture I think treats this time like a fast food restaurant. We want everything instantaneous while the church says Christmas is more like a gourmet meal. It will take time to prepare.
This year I decided that I had to take Advent seriously (in part because the last few years the real impact of the Incarnation has started perculating through my thick head).
This year I made a change. I bought a small tree, table sized, and religious themed ornaments, and only added a few non-religious ornaments that had sentimental value.
Under it's boughs, I have set up a creche. I have Mary and Joseph there now, later I will add some of the other figurines, but the Baby Jesus of course doesn't come til Christmas eve.
Not a reindeer or santa in sight.
And to remind me, I say the Angelus every morning.
The keywords for me are watch, wait, fast and pray.
The question is not how many presents will I get, but how many presents can I give to my Lord?
It makes the season very different.
I do like to get up the outside lights early in Advent - not anything spectacular - but lights of cheer and welcome in the darkness - candles in the windows and a garland along the porch, one star of David. Tomorrow we'll start reading Bible verses from the Advent calendar each night, and we light the candles on the wreath on Sunday.
It would be hard to wait until Christams eve to put up the tree! But I have tried to make it more prayerful - religious ornaments, and everyone in the family has an ornament symbolic of their name - a rock for Petra, or a little abacus for Joseph (he shall add) - all Biblical names or saints' names and I pray for protection and blesing as I put them up. The tree stays through Epiphany and by then I'm sated with the gaudiness of it. The children would have it up until February if they could, but they sure don't want to see Christmas in November.
Also, in the last couple of years I've been noticing that "Midnight Mass" is scheduled for 10 or 11 (not midnight or (shudder) at 5 pm in many of the parishes.
To add insult to injury, it ruins the old joke about people (the bi-annual types) calling in to find out "what time will Midnight Mass be held?".
My wife was reading a women's magazine article about forming "holiday traditions" in families. One of the people quoted went on at great length about how they celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas starting on December 12th, with gifts and the whole works.
This was reported without a hint of irony. I had to see it to believe it.
Celebrate the Twelve Nights of Christmas and have a 12th Night Epiphany Party!
We are doing that and doing the teaching that goes along with the Wise Men, Bethlehem, frankincense, gold, myrhh, the names of the wise men, gifts to the child Jesus and Lamswool punch and Crown cake!
**we should leave the tree up until Jan. 8th or so, relying on his grandmothers Catholic tradition... **
Absolutely! Until the Epiphany!
When my dad was a kid, folks would right the names of the three Kings over their doors and go visting the houses of relatives and neighbors to share Oplatki. The local Priest would also make the rounds.
**The keywords for me are watch, wait, fast and pray.**
My family kept ours up until the 8th.
We are packed out for Midnight Mass.
Also have a 5:30 Vigil Family Mass.
Then during Christmas Day, 8:15, 10:30 and at 12:30 -- Misa en Espanol.
I expect that only the 8:15 AM will be a little sparse. All the others I think we will have to pull out chairs and chairs and chairs. (Too bad, we don't have the expensive kind with kneelers!)
Wrong timeline for the 12 days of Christmas in that article.
The twelve days of Christmas are from December 25 through January 8, the Epiphany -- arrival of the Three Kings to worship the child King.