Growing up, Christmas for my family was the gathering of family on my mom's side, and then our quiet, very subdued Christmas morning. Pretty much after that day it was over with. Decorations came down on or before New Year's Day, and packed away for the following year. That was what I thought Christmas was. We never attended Christmas Eve church services (as active as my mom was in our church) ever, nor any other "religious" observances other than a simple Mary and Joseph on a donkey, and a creche in our living room.
As I began to be involved in church music the prep for the season started near Halloween, and culminated in the 11 PM Christmas Eve service. Usually I would then visit with the choir director and his wife, exchanging gifts and enjoying some Christmas cheer (usually a Scotch) before going off to my own home for some sleep before Christmas morning at my parent's house. It was during that time that I spent one of my most memorable Christmas Eve services, complete with a candle-lit church and "Silent Night" being sung by the choir in a darkened church as the congregation left. But, even with all that, the meaning of Christmas was not known by me.
I am blessed to have a wife who truly loves to celebrate Christmas. But she celebrates the day in all its meanings, from the festive decorations that she places in our house, to the gifts and entertaining that she likes to do. But more than that, she has never allowed the commercialism of the day to overcome the significance of the day.
With her guidance we begin decorating Thanksgiving weekend, which coincides with the 1st Sunday of Advent. For us, then, the decorating is the physical preparation of our house for Christmas, mirroring the inner preparation we make by observing Advent. The Advent candle is one of the 1st decorations out. And as we prepare for the holiday by shopping and wrapping, we also have Christmas music both sacred and secular, and hot cider, and other things that keep us in "The Christmas Spirit".
But for us, the "day" is not the focal point, but the beginning. For we do observe the "traditional" 12 Days of Christmas, keeping the decorations up and our outdoor lights on until Epiphany, which is the traditional date observed by the church to commemorate the arrival of the 3 Wise Men to see the baby Jesus.
And so, for us, Christmas is STILL going! We still say "Merry Christmas" to those we meet. Christmas music still is played, hot cider served, and the tree is still up in all it's glory.
So, Merry Christmas from the Protheros......