I’ve been saying the words for weeks, but now I can finally say them in the Christmas season . . . and not have my friend Elena cringe, cover her ears and say, “It’s not Christmas. It’s still Advent!”
For those of you who know me, or know Elena, that’s no small difference or matter. It is finally Christmas. And Christmas is more than a day. It’s a full season of its own. And the season didn’t begin on Thanksgiving. It only began yesterday, December 25th.
I know, it’s maybe more of a Catholic thing. But for me, defining those two distinct seasons adds to the celebration of the second, and helps me survive the stress of the first – the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 25th are Advent, not Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation, making ready, getting messy. So while the hustle and bustle get overwhelming at times, I remind myself hustle and bustle are important pieces of the whole. Like any big celebration – ever plan a wedding? A graduation? – the prep time is supposed to be a busy time. So I swim along with everything, knowing the peace of Christmas follows.
For four weeks the colors at church are purple with a splash of pink. The only ‘decoration’ is the Advent wreath to mark each week. Overnight, on Christmas Eve, the colors of the vestments turn to gold, and red and white poinsettias fill the church. It’s a dramatic, visual change and an obvious shift from one season to another.
I always feel sad when I see a de-frocked Christmas tree out on the curb on the 26th or 27th. People tell me they’re tired of the hustle and bustle of THE SEASON by the 25th and they are ready to move on into the New Year.
I’m a bit different – or as I’ve long understood, ‘a little left of center.’ While others are dismantling their mantle décor and crossing off their Christmas card sent/receive lists – those who still send them – I’m finally finishing my decorating, (this year the 17th), and writing out my cards (this year tomorrow, the 27th). It often feels like I’ve been invited to a party, spent time getting all prettied up, then arrive on the date only to be told, ‘Um, the party is over.’ when I clearly have the right date and time! So even though many people are already packing away their shiny baubles and eating the last of the cookies – or throwing them away to start their New Year’s diets – I’m enjoying all the trappings, festivities, foods and joy of the season.
So when does Christmas end? It’s not really clear. Some say the octave, January 1st. Others insist the Epiphany, January 6th. Some take it all the way to the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, Candlemas Day, February 2nd. Personally I keep my tree up until the limbs droop and it looks like I’ve not completely decorated it, and until hubby asks more often, ‘Really? All that stuff is still up?!’
There are intangible gifts that seem most present to me in the quiet of winter. I unwrap them during the 12 Days of Christmas. I’ll share them with you over the next 12 days – just take a peek inside my Writer’s Window.