ANN BAILEY: Christmas is well worth the waitChristmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year. Now the decorations that were put up the day after Halloween, instead of the day after Thanksgiving, will be gone by New Year’s to make way for Valentine decorations.
As I was walked through a shopping center earlier this month, making my way through Santas, elves and fake snow as the sounds of Christmas music filled the air, it struck me once again that anticipation is pretty much a thing of the past.
Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year. Now the decorations that were put up the day after Halloween, instead of the day after Thanksgiving, will be gone by New Year’s to make way for Valentine decorations.
That’s not surprising in a world in which we find out the gender of their babies before they’re born, charge items we can’t afford to pay for and get our news instantaneously.
Because I am someone who likes surprises (I didn’t find out whether I had given birth to boys or girls until the doctor made the announcement in the delivery room) and to having the holidays to look forward to, and then enjoying them to their fullest when they arrive, I’m not a fan of the fast-forward and then finish-it-off-quickly mode that we operate in these days.
But I know that whether I like it or not, things aren’t going to change. If anything, sales of Christmas merchandise will start even earlier as the years go by. While I can’t do anything about that, I can make my own personal stand in the secular world.
Celebrating the season
One way my family does that is to leave the Thanksgiving decorations up until at least the day after the holiday. Then we replace the turkeys, pumpkins and dried flowers with Christmas decorations, which stay up until after New Year’s Day.
I also wait until after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music. It just doesn’t seem right to me to be singing about Santa Claus coming to town when we’re still in the midst of high school football playoff season. It’s the same story at our house for Christmas videos. We wait until Thanksgiving weekend to pull out favorites such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and The Christmas Story.
I also will do the bulk of my Christmas shopping this month. I pick up a few items throughout the year if I see something that I know a family member or friend would like, but I save the serious shopping for December.
All of these things I’ve mentioned so far are, of course, secular traditions and for Christians, the real meaning of Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Savior.
The real meaning
In my religious world, Advent, which begins today, is a season of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Savior. In the Catholic tradition that I am part of, Christmas music isn’t part of the liturgy until Christmas Eve. I like that because waiting until the night before Christmas or Christmas Day to sing songs like “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels” makes it a more joyful and meaningful for me than if I had sung them in church throughout the entire month of December.
Outside of church, I plan to take breaks from the holiday frenzy of baking, get-togethers and shopping, to do some reflective reading each day. By focusing on the real meaning of Christmas I hope that instead of being overwhelmed by Dec. 25, I can be, instead, overjoyed. That’s definitely something to look forward to.