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?
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.
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?