6 Reasons to Wait Until December to Celebrate Christmas

6 Reasons to Wait Until December to Start Celebrating Christmas

It’s mid-November and Christmas trees and wreaths have been popping up in our neighbourhood for a while now already.

Not in our household.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I went through a stretch of time (after marriage but before kids) when I lost my enthusiasm for the winter holidays; but since having a daughter of my own, my childhood excitement for Christmas has totally been re-invigorated.

But we’re not quite ready to drag out the ornaments and reindeer wrapping paper. Not yet.

Instead, we prefer to start preparing for Christmas on the first day of Advent (which this year is December 1st). Here are a few reasons why:

(**But first: Please note that this post only expresses my OPINION and personal PREFERENCE. I am not telling you what is the RIGHT WAY to celebrate Christmas. I know people have REALLY BIG FEELINGS about this kind of thing, and I have no interest in telling anyone they’re doing it wrong.**)

I don’t want to shortchange fall.

Autumn is such a gorgeous and fleeting season. The colorful leaves, the cool air, the snuggly scarves, the scrumptious fall foods. I want to savour it for as long as I can.

November is still gloriously full of autumnal wonder – I’ve been enjoying the last of the pumpkins, squash, leeks, and broccoli from the garden. Just yesterday we spent our first afternoon playing in the leaves. So many people say fall is their favourite season. So why the hurry to jump into winter?

Fall decorations

playing in the leaves

There will be plenty of time to enjoy the winter festivals in December. For now, I’m still enjoying this season.

I personally feel that it diminishes the magic of the season when we force it to drag on so long by starting too early.

For me, too much of a good thing — even Christmas festivity — dilutes its potency. In my opinion, two months of stretched-out merry-making is less extraordinary than a few weeks of concentrated magic.

In other words, I find that saving something special for a limited period of time makes it more precious and mysterious.

Some people seem to suggest that the true Christmas-lover is the one who wants to dive headfirst into the festivities as soon as the first chill hits the air. But I personally feel that the true mark of devotion is a careful and restrained approach. It includes lots of waiting and reveling in the anticipation of future joy.

I believe that the best way to show your reverence for something is to carefully limit it. The work we put into waiting for something only makes it more delightful when we finally get to enjoy it.

There really isn’t enough decent Christmas music to go around for two months.

Seriously. The vast, vast majority of this peculiar genre known as “Christmas music” sits somewhere between uninspiring and downright atrocious. I do not understand why we, as a culture, completely abandon all standards for good music when the beginning of winter rolls around. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas? I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? WHY DO THESE SONGS EVEN EXIST? These songs should never have even been recorded, let alone be put on every music loop in every mall in North America for the last four decades.

There is some good Christmas music out there, of course, and I get a thrill out of hearing these few albums every year. But my rule of thumb is that if it’s not good enough to hear the rest of the year, it’s not good enough to hear at Christmas time. And not a lot of music makes the cut for me.

I intentionally stay out of retail stores as much as possible during the two months preceding Christmas just to avoid hearing the horrible, horrible music playing on the speakers. I am not going to bring it into my home, especially before December.

Most Christmas decorations lose their luster pretty quickly.

old christmas decorationsimage source

So personally, I’d rather enjoy the decorations in their prime by setting them up only weeks before Christmas, so they’re still glittery and fresh by Christmas day.

I Prefer the Advent Approach.

For folks who observe Advent, the weeks before Christmas are treated as a time of anxious anticipation for the long-awaited arrival of our Lord. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hushed and expectant as we prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming.

Christmas Day is when we start to celebrate. The Lord is come! Traditionally, Christmas was celebrated for twelve days after Christmas, not two months before. December 25th is when the feasting begins.

This stands in stark contrast to the common view of Christmas as the last day of celebration. I have heard people say that Christmas is the most depressing day of the year, because it marks the end of the celebration. This seems backwards to me. FINALLY the Messiah is here to save us! Light the fire, bring out the feast! NOW is the time to break out the rum and eggnog, to join hands and sing.

Since I know I can’t get everyone to join me in reviving this tradition, I’m happy to take a modified/combined approach. I’ll decorate the tree and watch Christmas movies before December 25th. But I do prefer to emphasize the spirit of anticipation before Christmas and the spirit of celebration on (and even after!) Christmas Day.

And for me, Advent marks the ideal length of time (four weeks) to prepare for celebrating the birth of our Lord. Any longer than that, and it loses its excitement.

I Want to Correct the Unhealthy Imbalance Between Holidays.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been confused about why Christmas is so much more important than any other holiday.

Of course the birth of Christ is good news for the whole world. God is with us! But it’s only good news if he truly is the Messiah, come to save us and defeat death.

But how long do we spend celebration Christ’s resurrection in the spring? A weekend? How many people (outside the liturgical churches) even notice the beginning of Lent? Where are all the Easter decorations and songs and feasts and movies?

In short, Easter doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of attention Christmas does, though it marks just as important an event in the Christian year. This bothers me.

And the greatest oversight, in my opinion, is that of Pentecost. Jesus’ birth was the first phase of God’s redemption; the second phase was ushered in with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that through the Holy Spirit, we would do even greater things than he did. Pentecost is quite possibly an even bigger deal than Christmas and Easter combined.

The church was born on Pentecost day. The spirit of Christ now LIVES IN US. And how do we celebrate?

Really: how do we celebrate? I am not aware of a single Pentecost tradition. (That’s why we tried to start one this year.)

I prefer to spend more time and energy reviving these under-celebrated holidays, instead of adding to the over-hype of Christmas.

Christmas is wonderful, but it doesn’t mean much without Easter. And if it weren’t for Pentecost, we would still be alone. These holidays need at least equal representation. (And I’m working on it.)

How about you? When do you start to celebrate Christmas? How about the other holidays?

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  1. HMM! Thank your for this! I LOVE Christmas Hymns – I could listen to Sufjan Steven’s “O Come O Come Emmanuel” ANY time. But I wholeheartedly hear your criticism of our faith tradition for diminishing or not celebrating to the fullest – Easter and Pentecost. I don’t think we “get it”. The importance of those two Christian Holidays are under celebrated – maybe because they lack a secular counterpart? And I think our perceptions of the importance of Easter and Christmas are lost around things like excessive gift-giving and new Easter dresses.
    I appreciate your thoughtful posts so much! Keep on being peculiar!
    Katie recently posted..Scrabble with Scripture: Fearfully and Wonderfully MadeMy Profile

    • I’ll have to look into that particular hymn — thanks for mentioning it! I need some more good music for my Christmas rotation.

      As for those holidays not having a secular counterpart — the thing is, I think they do! Just as Christmas was created to Christianize the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and the Winter Solstice, I believe Easter happens right around the Spring Equinox and Pentecost right around the Summer Solstice. We Christians have missed the boat there, I think!

      • But not the same sort of secular counterpart, and probably for the best–do you really want a commercialized, materialistic summer solstice?

  2. Love it. So true. I’m so excited for advent this year. I’ve put a lot into it.

  3. I completely and thoroughly and utterly and absolutely agree with you! I Love love love Christmas, but I can’t stand how early it starts. Even by the beginning of December you’re already sick of the (frankly tacky) decorations and music that hit the shops as soon as Halloween is over (that’s another over-done one!) I Actively avoid shops that put up their decorations too early (I have to concede at some point though, when they’re all slathered in tinsel,) but as a child (and still now, I’m just a big child now,) we put up our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and leave it until Twelfth night. And before the 24th, it’s just an advent wreath or calendar.
    Thanks for the assurance that it’s not just me!
    Rosealys recently posted..The Best of AutumnMy Profile

    • Oh, that’s different — not setting up your tree till Christmas Eve? I kinda like it!

      • We often did that, too, though possibly just because my mom was busy and disorganized. ;-)

        • It’s a nice ritual, getting out the box the day before Christmas and bringing in the tree and decorating it, and our Dad putting the star on the top. We still get him to do it, even though we can all reach now. We did that ever since we were born, so we never had a particularly Christmassy house (apart from a crib) until Christmas Eve, it just made / makes it feel all the more special since it’s only for a few weeks in the year.
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  4. Have to say, I’m in agreement! Christmas is so much more fun when it’s compacted into three weeks. At my house it isn’t allowed to start until the day after Thanksgiving, but my husband thinks it starts as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over (He grew up in Atlanta where they lit the big downtown tree the night of T-day). Although I’d agree with you on most music, I Want a Hippo for Christmas, is my absolute favorite because of it’s absurdness. I have to say this idea of bad quality media just for Christmas also extends to movies. I have never seen so many truly awful movies on TV any other time of the year.
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    • I actually don’t know too much about Christmas movies — I haven’t seen too many! Weird, right? I only know Elf and The Santa Claus, and I love them both; but I’m sure I would strongly dislike most of what else is out there.

    • I love that song, too. It’s just. So. SILLY. My husband hates it, though.

  5. We prefer to wait until the beginning of Advent and carry through to Epiphany although on snow days we do pull out the Christmas music since I have some that I could listen too all year:). Have you heard John Michael Talbots’s Birth of Jesus? One of my favorites since I was a child.
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  6. YES. Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving most years, so getting out the decorations and music that weekend seems reasonable–especially when you’re working, so taking advantage of the long weekend makes logistical sense. But I abhor beginning any earlier than that, and if Advent doesn’t start until the week after, we usually hold off on the decorations (though I usually switch over to the music), because everything stays up through all twelve days of Christmas (aka to Epiphany), and when Thanksgiving is only halfway through November, that’s just too long.

    I always am in choir, and so of course we started practicing our Christmas stuff back in August–just like I always feel slightly guilty for practicing our Alleluia music during Lent, but you can’t just go into these things cold.

    I think that’s an interesting point about the imbalance between the other important church holidays. The interesting thing is, the church actually marks each of those more or less the same way–decorations, special liturgies, etc. It’s the (mostly but not entirely secular) STUFF surrounding them that separates them. And actually, Easter is kind of a big deal if you are in a church that observes Lent–and I think I’ve mentioned before that I was an adult before I knew there were churches that DIDN’T observe it–because forty days is a looooooooong time of purple vestments and no Alleluias and general sobriety. After all that, Easter just EXPLODES with joy, and it’s beautiful.

    On that note for those holidays, here is something interesting: in Catholic Germany (and perhaps other Catholic areas in Europe), you actually get the same amount of time off school for Pentecost as for Easter–a week. Or did I actually have two weeks off at Pentecost and only one and change for Easter? I don’t remember now, but I do remember I had to look up what the heck Pfingst meant when I saw we had this lovely long Pfingstferien in the middle of the semester. And you have the week after Easter off, as well as Good Friday.

    So yes, I am with you–except on the topic of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” which is HILARIOUS. The songs that bother me are the saccharine ballads like “Shoes” or whatever it’s called–those nasty-sweet modern sentimental pieces. Give me the classic hymns any day. Oh, n.B.: you don’t actually sing Christmas hymns until Christmas in church, and then only until Epiphany, so like two Sundays of “Joy to the World” and the rest. There’s a whole section of Advent hymns (some of which people think of as Christmas hymns, like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” but look at the words–clearly anticipatory, not celebratory), and that’s what you sing all through December.

    • Once again: so much insight in your comments, Katie!

      I guess I wasn’t aware there was a difference between Advent and Christmas music, but now that you mention it, YES, there is a distinct difference. Liturgical churches. So full of surprises and mystery. I NEED TO LEARN MORE. I love the thought of all that Easter joy after forty days of sobriety.

  7. I’ve always disliked secular Christmas music and stored bringing out their decorations so early. We have always started Christmas things the first weekend in December. Then last year I started reading about observing advent in the traditional sense as a pre-Christmas thing. It’s very interesting to me and it just seems so much more powerful and meaningful. I’m excited about starting some of my own traditions as I have my own family. I’m a dance teacher, so we’ve been working on our Christmas show since September, but I’ve tried to keep the Christmas contained to dance class. I love Christmas hymns, but like last year I’m going to attempt to listen to mostly advent music before Christmas (lots of great advent music out there too though!). That’s the most difficult thing for me to put off in anticipation of Christmas day.
    Carolyn recently posted..Anne with an E – October SpoilerMy Profile

  8. It’s somehow expected that the more mysterious a holiday is, the less popular it is among the lay people. It is “easier” to celebrate someone’s birth than resurrection.
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  9. I’m totally with you — The kids were ready to haul out the Christmas lights on that first snowfall! Yikes! I was saying, it’s still Fall! But they look at all the other Christmas decorations and think I’m completely unfair. I think I’ll have them read your article to help them understand ha! To appease them though I realized that we do need to get ready for Christmas and so they are practicing songs they need to perform for Christmas – singing and on the recorder. And to further prevent them from spending all their money on Christmas decorations at the store I’ve decided to get materials for them to start crafting decorations for the tree and to make an advent calendar and more things… once I think of them. I think this has contented everyone over here. It will keep little hands happy and busy and their minds excited and eager and busy on learning new things to get ready. But let’s face it. If the kids were in charge there would be Christmastime and Easter all year round and no halloween. :D

  10. Lutherans are liturgical too. We celebrate Advent and don’t start the Christmas hymns until Christmas Eve service (Advent before that). Christmas lasts until Epiphany. We also celebrate (observe?) Ash Wednesday and Lent. Easter is actually quite long, not just one Sunday but it lasts until Ascention Day (40 days after Easter when Christ accended into heave) and the following Sunday we observe Pentecost. It is a very rich thing to follow the liturgical church year and I’m so thankful we do.
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  11. I’m glad you wrote about this issue. This is one of those things that has completely changed for me since being married. Let’s just say- Love your opinion. ;)
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  12. Amen sister! I can’t believe how much earlier it keeps getting. I like the comment, its special because its NOT all the time. That’s what makes it magical!
    alison recently posted..Who gets to adopt?My Profile

  13. I could listen to Trans Siberian Orchestra’s music for ages and with three Chirstmas albums they provide a decent chunk of music. I then add to that Elvis and a variety of other singing the standard/traditionally songs and hymns (and any other new albums that cross my radar). I am also a heavy metal fan so I have those versions too. For me there is plenty of Christmas music to go around and for different moods. I usually don’t star with the Christmas stuff until December starts but this year I am starting early (today). I am also Australian and I know that in America people go from one holiday to the next. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year.

  14. Hello again!

    I continue making the kombucha with your instructions. Is getting better and my SCOBY now is floating. I do have two concerns; the baby has attached to my SCOBY. Do I cut it off or leave it attached. Is looking scary!

    Second, after a week it seems to be ready, but it smells bad. Is that normal? Is not a good smell.

    Last, I tried putting ginger in it once it was made, (taking the SCOBY out), but was not successful. Would like to try to flavor it. Any ideas?

    Thank you again. U taught me how to make it. I had even bought a SCOBY from Amazon, and after weeks of waiting for it, it didn’t look at all like mine.
    Have a blessed day!

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