Friday, December 30, 2011

Have you taken down your tree yet?

I am often accused, about December 1st, of being a grinch.

Usually it's my younger daughter, for whom any day after Thanksgiving should be filled with Christmas carols and decorations. Not surprisingly, the biggest conflict on this score centers around putting up the Christmas tree.

If I had my way, we would put up the tree around December 20th. Maybe as early as the 15th. But never sooner. However, recognizing that compromise is an important skill to learn as well as to teach, we usually put up our tree around the first weekend in December. And I'm okay with that.

My biggest gripe, however, my biggest frustration (besides the fact that by December 1st I am incredibly SICK of Paul McCartney singing that he is "simply having a wonderful Christmastime" which seems to invade not only the all-Christmas-all-the-time stations, but also every shopping mall (which I avoid), dentist's office, and restaurant soundtrack. Where was I? Oh, yeah, my biggest frustration. It's that during December, all the radio stations, all the stores, all the media outlets focus on Christmas. From at a minimum Thanksgiving weekend (and sometimes much earlier, but that's not my point) onward, everything is Christmas.

Then December 25th turns inexorably to December 26th, and the tidal wave stops. Just like that.

In fact, and here's one of the points of this rant, we've come to believe that the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on December 12th as a countdown to Christmas Eve. Originally December 25th was the first day of Christmas, and the season lasted twelve days until it ended on January 6th, or Epiphany. Decorations went up on Christmas Eve, and remained up until January 5th or so. (That's why the Norwegian hymn, "I am so glad each Christmas Eve" includes a verse that begins, "When Mother trims the Christmas tree ...")

Today, according to this way of thinking, is the Sixth Day of Christmas. I would love to be able to turn on a radio and hear Christmas carols, but you can't find them anymore. They stopped on the 26th. We've moved on.

Why have we made this switch? One simple reason. Retail. Christmas has become the mighty engine by which retailers make a large percentage of their annual profit. You can't very well hype the Christmas shopping season after the holiday now, can you?

If, however, the Christmas season is really about Jesus, then it is appropriate to have a season of preparation (Advent) during early December, then to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, then to have a couple weeks to reflect on what it means that he has come. Parents of newborns understand this rhythm. Preparation, birth, and reflection. Then on Epiphany we celebrate the coming of the Magi, or Wise Men, (see Matthew 2), when Jesus is revealed as King of kings, when he receives our gifts and our homage.

The world doesn't celebrate Epiphany.

So, if you can, leave your tree up for a few days yet. Take time to bask in the glow of the decorations and reflect on what it means for you that Jesus is born. Celebrate the Christmas season. Come into the New Year reflecting not on your waistline, but on the Word become flesh (see John 1) for us.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! My tree always stays up well after Christmas. I try to keep my big opinionated mouth shut when trees come down the 26th. :O