December 27th and no more Christmas music, trees can be seen on the curb, and there’s chatter over when to take down the Christmas lights. But Christmas has only just begun! The season leading up to the 25th of December is advent and the official Christmas season literally just started. Why all the confusion?
We all know Christmas has become extremely commercialized, it’s something we’ve been talking about for decades….take the Grinch and Charlie Brown for example,
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!” And then there’s hapless Charlie Brown, who groans when he sees Snoopy decorating, “Oh no! My own dog has gone commercial!” Later in the special, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “We all know Christmas is a big commercial racket” before ordering him to get a “modern” aluminum Christmas tree (in pink!). In the end, Linus has to remind us all “what Christmas is all about.”
And then there’s miracle on 34th street….In Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle, working undercover in Macy’s department store, tells his friend Alfred that “I’ve been fighting against [it] for years, the way they commercialize Christmas.” Alfred replies, “A lot of bad ‘-isms’ floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism.” Later, after the famous scene where Kris begins sending parents to other stores for their toys, a woman tells the Macy’s manager, “I want to congratulate you and Macy’s on this wonderful new stunt you’re pulling [… ] Imagine a big outfit like Macy’s putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial.” Source
So where am I going with this? And this might surprise you, I don’t think the commercialized Christmas is entirely bad. As parents we can raise our children to have balance during Christmas, to understand the difference between the commercialized fun and the true meaning of Christmas. So what’s the big deal? It all boils down to the calendar.
With the commercialized Christmas and the heavy consumerism the idea got planted in our heads that Chrsitmas began the day after Thanksgiving. Which is totally understandable, after all that’s when the Christmas music is played on the radio, people hit-up the Black Friday deals, and thanks to the invention of artificial trees most people even put up their trees in November. So we want to start spreading joy, is this such a bad thing? Of course not. But what is extremely disappointing is the fact that it all comes down a couple days after the 25th of December and then most people have a long cold winter ahead of them…some even start battling seasonal affective disorders and winter depression.
Whereas, if we actually kept the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts and our calendars we’d all be celebrating the advent season the last week of November and up until the 25th of December and then, on the 25th of December the true Christmas season begins. And get this, we can take that Christmas joy all the way to February, yup, you read correctly, February! Imagine being able to spread out the festivities and make more cookies, enjoy those lights a bit longer, and the presence of the warmth, comfort, and magic of the Christmas season in your home through the month of January. How?
The 12 Days of Christmas
The 12 days of Christmas is the period that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day). Why not expand your gift giving to last for 12 days…open a gift a day?
The Christmas Octave
Another element to throw into the mix is that the “octave” of Christmas ends on the eighth day after Christmas, which is January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Christmas is not celebrated for just 24 hours; it is given the honor of eight days (octave) of celebration which is a custom that traces its roots to Old Testament feasts. The end of the octave is the end of the Christmas feast proper, after which begins the longer Christmas season that extends to the Purification of Mary for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (February 2 – Candlemas). Why not celebrate with cinnamon rolls?
And the Entire Time is Called Christmastide, which culminate with Candlemas
In the older tradition (which is still kept in the liturgical calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) Christmas lasts until Candlemas, or the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord, which isn’t until February 2nd. This marked the end of a long 40-day “Christmastide” that corresponded to the 40 days of Lent. Source
Thus, if you were looking for that excuse to leave up your Christmas decor for a bit longer, look at Christmas lights, to savor those Christmas cookies, listen to your fave Christmas music, watch more Christmas movies, etc. you’ve got one…or should I say 40 days worth! And to be honest, I must admit that I’m a bit surprised and disappointed in the lack of creativity when it comes to the commercialized Christmas and the fact that they haven’t used Christmastide to their advantage.
How would you enjoy celebrating the Christmas season a bit longer?