Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas - it's not just about retail, you know.

I know I'm not the only person who finds the commercial nature of Christmas to be, well, a little pushy. For example, I walked into a Big Lots store in early October (or maybe it was late September), and the Christmas decorations were already up!  And I've been hearing Christmas music at retail locations, and saw that the Main Place shopping mall in Santa Ana already has Santa there, and you can get your photograph taken with him.  And you know what, those things only mildly bothered me. What does really bother me, though, is that last year, Big Lots, amongst other retailers, were shutting down Christmas decorations and other holiday-themed items, and had Valentine's Day cards and other related displays up - EVEN BEFORE DECEMBER 25TH!  For retailers, Christmas is a shopping season that now starts in late September and ends BEFORE Christmas Day!

I know I'm not alone in feeling that Christmas has become too commercial.  And I think that it has even become part of our culture to joke about it.  50 years ago even Charles Schultz and his famous comic strip characters Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy, were trying to figure out what Christmas was all about.  

For me, and my family, I think we have figured it out, and we celebrate it as two different and distinct seasons. First, there's Advent - the time of preparation.  This is usually marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day, and will start Sunday the 30th of November - the Sunday following Thanksgiving.  In most churches, they observe the First Sunday of Advent by lighting the first candle of the Advent Wreath. We do that too here at home, plus the weekend of Thanksgiving is when we commence decorating. At our house, that means I get the outdoor decorations up, and we retrieve the boxes and boxes and boxes of household decorations from storage.  We also set up the nativity scene, but we follow a tradition of ONLY setting up specific pieces each Sunday of Advent.  The Baby Jesus comes out on Christmas Eve, and then the Three Wise Men are put out.  But with them, there's a tradition as well.  

For you see, traditionally, Christmas actually STARTED on Christmas Day, and continued for 12 days until Epiphany, on January 6th, which is the date when the Three Wise Men are to have appeared to Mary and the Christ Child.  So, each of our Three Wise Men are placed in distant corners of our house, and daily are moved closer to our Nativity scene, until they "arrive" on Epiphany.  And that is when we are "done" with Christmas.  After Epiphany, I shut down the outdoor lights and we begin the long process of de-decorating.

As much as retail would love us to celebrate Christmas starting when the kids go back to school, but stop celebrating even BEFORE Christmas Day, we chose to celebrate it as the two distinct seasons - and we enjoy it more because of that.  

Here's to you and your family, a very Merry Christmas!

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