Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Christmas is the New Advent

Newly purchased plastic storage bins with red and green lids are waiting eagerly in the garage to replace the falling-apart cardboard boxes that have held our Christmas decor for the better part of a decade. I meant to start putting our decorations away last night, but I didn't. . . and it may be more than laziness that kept me perusing my Google Reader rather than plucking ornaments from our increasingly brittle tree.

Christmas is not over.

rip christmas treeNot in a "Christ lives in our hearts" sort of way, but literally--liturgically--Christmas doesn't end until January 6! It's not over yet! Today is the twelfth day of Christmas, so (as of this writing) there are still four hours left in the Christmas season. Though it's a common misunderstanding (that, as a child, often got me small presents from Dec. 13 onward), the Twelve Days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (Jan. 6). It's not just a song, but a season of the traditional Christian calendar.

We are all so excited for Christmas to arrive, and then we quickly--if reluctantly--move on.

When Mom and I went out on December 26, I told a store clerk, "Merry Christmas," and Mom said, "it's 'Happy New Year' now!" No... it's not. I was thrilled that my holiday XM stations continued to play Christmas music beyond the 25th, but even they stopped on January 2. The gorgeous tree at Kate's day care is down, and mommy bloggers are lamenting their "delinquency" at still having their tree up on the 4th.

I remember in college, catching up with a friend upon our return to campus in January. She told me how her new boyfriend's family still had their tree up. "They keep it up till January 6. . . Epiphany. What religion is that?"

"Ours!" I told her.

In my efforts to celebrate Christmas for its full duration, I've found that--in a way--Christmas is the new Advent. While it has always been part of the Christian calendar, I think Advent has regained popularity in the last few years as many Christians try to embrace the season of preparation and expectation that lead up to Christmas. It's hard, though, as the world is going nuts from Halloween onward with Christmas festivities and marketing, not so much spiritual preparation as home- and gift-preparation. I love the way Matt Appling phrased it: "There’s food to make and cards to mail, and gifts to wrap, and trees to kill, and sweaters to wear, and decorations to decorate and eggnog to drink and places to be. . . And somewhere in there, I’m supposed to find the time for some solemn reflection on the real meaning of the holiday."

So I'm wondering if maybe Christmas itself--the latter eleven days of it, at least--is an even better time for reflection on the meaning of Christ's coming. Once society as a whole has opened its gifts, taken down the tree, and moved on, we can rest and reflect on the hope and peace Jesus' birth and life brings to the world and to our lives.

Christmas is not just one day. There's no need to pack the celebration away so quickly. In fact, if your nativity scene is still out, take a look at those wise men. Epiphany--January 6--is the day we celebrate their arrival in Bethlehem. They took their time on the journey, and we can too. Merry Christmas.


EMU said...

I woke up this morning excited about Ephipany! As Ephipany was traditionally the "gift" day because of the 3 wise men, we're giving Bop a gift today that I know she'll be thrilled about (if it comes in the mail in time...!).

Thanks for writing about it. Happy Ephipany!

Sonya said...

I love this! I'm aware of Ephipany because my mother is a Lutheran church secretary. I have always left my decorations out way past time, I can' never part with them!

Katie Bug said...

This post sure does make me feel better...since our decorations are still up.
I had never heard of Epiphany until I read an article about it in college, and I honestly don't think I've heard about it again until reading this post.
We usually take our decorations down on January 1, but maybe we'll start keeping them up longer on purpose. I have enjoyed continuing to read the Christmas story with Katelyn and watching her play with the nativity set long past Christmas day.


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